Fruit Trees


Sometimes people who have grown up in other parts of the country with more distinct seasonal changes comment “I love California, but I wish there were real seasons here.” Having lived my entire life so far in California so far, I admit to not being able to relate to those feelings. On walks, I really appreciate seeing some green along the way at all times of the year. Throughout the spring, summer, and fall, many varieties of fruit are visible on the trees that have been planted in yards and along the parking strips. So far I have seen apples, pears, apricots, peaches, plums, cherries, figs, avocados, loquats, pineapple guavas, persimmons, pomegranates, as well as olives and nuts. During the winter months the lemons are abundant, though other citrus does not seem to fair as well here as warmer parts of the Bay area. I have also spotted grape and kiwi vines, and all sorts of berries. Some time ago I heard a rumor about a fruiting banana tree growing somewhere in Berkeley, but I have yet to see one.

In Los Angeles (where you can really grow bananas and other tropical fruit), Fallen Fruit has been mapping the location of public fruit trees. I love this project idea, and have toyed with the idea in the past of mapping fruit trees in Berkeley. It would be a great educational project for adults and children to learn more about the origins of our food, and might also encourage more people to plant fruit trees in their own yards. It would have to be executed in such a way, though, as to not encourage people to trespass, disturb residents, or strip street trees of their fruit.

In addition to fruit street trees (i.e., trees planted in the area between the sidewalk and the road), I have seen fruit trees in some of the parks in Berkeley, such as Ohlone Park and People’s Park. Unfortunately a number that I have seen are fairly overgrown and would require a ladder for picking, but a few are a reasonable size and shape. At the new location of the Berkeley Adult School at Virginia and Curtis streets, Schoolhouse Creek Commons features many young fruit trees.

One of the reasons why cities sometimes do not encourage the planting of street trees is the mess they can create. No one appreciates walking through a slimy mess of smashed plums or cherries, and the slippery fruit could be dangerous for someone in a wheelchair or unsteady on their feet. Sometimes trees are planted with the best of intentions, but then the original owner moves away or is not physically able to pick the fruit any longer. Village Harvest, an organization that has been successfully harvesting fruit from home fruit trees in the Santa Clara Valley, expanded last year to working with the Berkeley organization Spiral Gardens to collect fruit from trees in Berkeley. The fruit is donated to local food banks and hunger programs.

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17 Comments »

  1. amey said

    great posting!
    My aunt dates a fellow who eats mostly raw fruits and veggies… and he knows every unclaimed fruit tree in Santa Cruz County (and many well beyond our county limits!). He harvests most of those fruits you listed… figs, persimmons, oranges, apples, avocados, grapes, lemons, apricots, plums, and so on. I gotta get in on that action! I just recently discovered a fig tree full of fruit in front of a boarded up house… score!! I’ll have to check back in a week or two, since the fruits aren’t ripe enough to pick yet.

  2. > have toyed with the idea in the past of mapping fruit trees in Berkeley.

    Dude! You stole my idea! 😉

    I actually looked into using a Google Maps mashup tool to do it but I haven’t gotten very far. Part of what holds me back is the definition of “public”. The parkway is legally public property but I’d still feel bad picking something that someone else had gone to the effort to buy and grow and water, etc. And though Fallen Fruit is A-OK with picking fruit from a tree that overhangs onto the sidewalk, I’m not.

    I guess for me it’s just fun to map them all out. Maybe a source of people to trade fruit with (I have a fig tree and I don’t like figs, for instance). It’s also something to know in case of hard times. I’ve always mentally tracked where food sources are in case I end up homeless. Of course, clean water sources would be very hard.

    • Yes – this idea is more common than you think. Worked on it for a while, and I think we have a nice solution at ediblecities.org.
      I think the real way to deal w/ only partly public trees is to reach out to ones neighbors and ask for permission – I have found that most are willing to share…

  3. Spike said

    Love the guard duck.

  4. christian said

    Hmmm… only car commuters think we don’t really have seasons. August is often a month of cool, cloudy morning bike rides to work on the SF Peninsula and it’s wonderful.

  5. […] I received quite a few messages in response to my fruit trees post last month, including a couple of tips about fruiting banana trees in the area. The first one is near San Pablo, several blocks south of the north Berkeley border. It is hard to tell from the photo, but this is a very big banana tree. It seems hard to believe that got to be that size in outdoors in Berkeley, which is far from tropical. Just over the Berkeley border on San Pablo is another tree in front of Ruen Pair, a Thai restaurant. I am familiar with the seasons for most fruit, but of course had no idea when bananas would be growing, so I was pleasantly surprised to find actual bananas growing on the tree! My next task will be to find out if any nurseries carry these trees. Interestingly, I recently wandered through Berkeley Horticultural Nursery (a favorite nursery of many Berkeley gardeners) on a recent walk and noticed that they had a few tropical fruit trees such as mangoes and guavas. I asked an employee whether they would really fruit here, and he said it was unclear whether they would; you really have to have to find the right spot and protect it from frost (not usually much frost here) and maybe in several years, if you are lucky, you will get a fruit or two. I may be willing to take that chance if I find a banana tree. […]

  6. I too have seen bananas hanging from the tree at Ruen Pair, and also other trees around town. Dunno if they get ripe enough to eat, but I think a lot of them are more the platano variety, many of which can be eaten green.

  7. […] and there will be places for people to break off and return to the start. For those interested in fruit trees, we will be on the lookout along the way for trees that have fall fruit, such as citrus and […]

  8. Bailey said

    Hello, I came upon your site while searching for fruit-trees in the bay area. I’m working on an mashup to map local food sources — fruit trees and edible plants as well as things like farmers markets and food co-ops. The web site still has a long way to go but you should check it out our alpha release and add anything you know about!

    http://harvestr.org/

    Best,
    Bailey

  9. Asiya said

    Please check out my blog for almost daily posts of forage-able fruit in the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland, and soon North Berkeley. I’ve mapped Rockridge with what public fruit, edible flowers, and herbs I’ve taken note of, and now I’m working on maps for Berkeley neighborhoods. Email me if you’d like to for a plant ID bike ride or walk.

  10. mrs.sunshine said

    It is so amazing how many people had this idea to map out the fruit trees in Berkeley. My boyfriend and I thought it would be a great idea.
    Guess we where not the only ones:)

  11. jerlina said

    I have started mapping fruit trees around the University. I don’t have enough time or energy to go beyond this area. If we got people from different areas to map their own neighborhoods we could do the whole city! Who’s in?

  12. jerlina said

    send me an email if you’re interested- jerlina@berkeley.edu

  13. Kaytea said

    I encourage you to use the NeighborhoodFruit.com service to map trees you find on public land. Soon you also will be able to use the service to find and share fruit from your and others’ back yards.

  14. No one that I could find was doing this in Contra Costa County. I’ve mapped Clayton, Concord, Walnut Creek, several hundred trees. Lots of work and fun this past year! I’ve harvested over 16,000 pounds of tree fruit in these cities. I will forever be known as “The Lemon Lady”.

    Call/email anytime. Good luck.
    http://www.thelemonlady.blogspot.com
    AnnaAndAva@gmail.com

  15. Blake said

    I’m here visiting and I’ve found TONS of yumberry trees around UCB campus! People look at my like I’m nuts, foraging around in the trees.

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