Food, food culture, food as culture and the cultures that grow our food

Fallen Fruit

May 7, 2005

red apples, yellow apples going to waste in a California front yard
Red apples on the left, yellow apples on the right. All of the apples were going to waste.

As a fan of food foraging and fruit stealing, and as a woman who had never bought fruit except for bananas, mangos and the occasional avocado until she moved up North to the Polar Circle, I applaud the Fallen Fruit Collective for cultivating the culture of gleaning. Dave Burns, Matias Viegener and Austin Young started out by mapping the ripening fruit in their own Silverlake California neighbourhood (in LA). Think globally, act neighbourly.

For those of us not fully familiar with Leviticus chapter 19 verses 9-10, it calls upon us farmer-gardener types not to pick our fields clean, but to be a tiny bit sloppy and leave some food at the edges for the poor and the strangers. If you’ve ever taken a walk in a California suburb, you will be amazed at the sheer volume of fresh fruit growing at those edges and dripping down into the street. Fruit trees burgeoning with apples, figs, apricots, peaches, bananas, oranges, lemons, limes, loquats, cumquats, plus raspberry, ollalaberry and blackberry bushes are ubiquitous and seem never to get harvested, as if everyone was trying to get off easy on all that sinning by leaving the edges of their yards to the poor and the strange.

For those of us not fully familiar with the laws of the City of Los Angeles, one of them dictates that the fruit of trees leaning over public property is free for anyone to pick.

Aware that an abundant crop of delicious fresh fruit goes unharvested every year, artist collective Fallen Fruit distributed maps of areas of Los Angeles with the locations of the fruit trees ripe for picking. Imagine that the city is a huge supermarket, and the streets are the isles. There are avocados on Tularosa Dr. and there’s a ‘HUGE FIG TREE’ on Larissa near Sunset Blvd. Peaches and loquats are on Marcia Dr. and if you ring the doorbell, the peach lady on the corner will invite you into her back yard to take as many zucchini as you like.

Fruit foraging image by Fallen Fruit dot org - used with a degree of permission
Under the cover of darkness, the Fallen Fruit collective on a gleaning foray

Fallen Fruit set about mapping all the free fruit it could find and encouraged others to do the same. On their website are a number of maps that tell you where there’s free fruit for the taking. In addition they call upon everyone to petition their city councils to exclusively plant fruit trees, to create an abundant supply of free fruit in the city. Private homeowners are asked to grown fruit and vegetables at the perimeter of their property, that everyone can experience the unbeatable taste of freshly picked – and almost stolen – what seems like forbidden fruit.

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