Catching Falling Fruit

  • Here in the Southern Hemisphere, we are approaching the most fruitful time of the year. The harvest of apples, pears and stonefruit is underway and new season fruit is available for purchase in our supermarkets and grocery stores. Unfortunately, most of these fruits will be sprayed with pesticides and transported thousands of kilometres across our vast country, consuming vast amounts of fossil fuels in the process.

    Meanwhile, in backyard gardens and on public land, unwanted and unused fruit, (planted by migrants in the 1950′s and 1960s) is going to waste. Thankfully, a group of volunteers who were interested in establishing local food networks in inner-suburban Melbourne started a project in 2004 to harvest this fruit and share it. The Urban Orchard has now grown into a community of over 200 people who share excess fruit from their backyards by participating in a weekly market. Each week, people swap their fruit and vegetables and recipes with each other. The Urban Orchard project has been so successful it has spread to other areas of Australia. The Urban Orchard is a model for sustainability because it…

    “…endorses an ethos of self-reliance and reflects the seasons and the whole cycle of food. It is also free and organic, making normally expensive organic food accessible for those on a budget.”

    The really important thing is that no money needs to change hands. Also in 2004, Fallen Fruit, an artistic collaboration based in Los Angeles, created their first public fruit map. This was a map of all of the the fruit trees of Silverlake, Los Angeles. The motivation for the project was again about sharing.

    “Free food is available at every time of the year on the streets of Los Angeles. According to the law, if a fruit tree grows on or over public property, the fruit is no longer the sole property of the owner. Fruit trees in particular are highly decorative, and often demand no greater care than any other landscape ornamental. Los Angeles is particularly rich in this respect: bananas, peaches, avocados, lemons, oranges, limes, kumquats, loquats, apples, plums, passion fruit, walnuts, pomegranates and guavas, just to name a few, grow year round in every neighborhood in the city. These fruits ripen at different seasons, so free food is available year round in Los Angeles.”

    The Pop-Up City has featured mapping public fruit before, so just for fun, I tried a quick Google search of “mapping public fruit” to see just how widespread the practice has become. The search returned various websites mimicking or extending on Fallen Fruit’s original project, including an iPhone app, a Seattle fruit tree map, a Brisbane ning network, and an eHow article!

    My own suburb of South Hobart has also been mapped by kind and sharing community members. The map shows me the location of a nearby fig tree, a pear tree, plum trees and many, many blackberries. When the rain stops, I might go for a walk, and perhaps catch some fallen fruit.