Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Public edible fruit trees.. there should be more.

Browsing the Suburbs

How often have you needed a squeeze of lemon to finish off a tasty dinner creation to find that you’ve run out? There’s a lemon tree down the road, but it’s just out of reach from the pavement, and as the suns gone down it’s just as likely the tenants will set their dogs on you as answer the door so you can ask if you can pick a couple of their spare fruit.
We’ve all seen trees over laden with fruit that the trees owner isn’t eating. Generally the tree is in somebody’s garden where it can’t be reached from the street, and in these days of lost community and increasing crime it’s kind of hard to randomly approach people for fruits.
There must be a way that more community food can be grown. There are many families where the kids don’t get enough nutrition, especially in the form of fruit, where dinner is straight from the freezer into the microwave. Yuck!
I know of two parks where fruit is grown for the public to eat. One is Gourley Park in East Freo, the other is King William Park in South Freo. There must be scope for more.
I know some people are concerned about fruit fly (and others who unfortunately aren’t concerned enough), but not all fruit attracts those rotten pests. It’s already common to see tasty loquats ignored in gardens , so we don’t need to add to the burden of fruit fly.
There’s plenty of other varieties to choose from and if it was well known that the fruit was available and folk were educated about when to pick it there wouldn’t be lots of rotten fruit around to attract nasties.
I’ve met people who know where neglected grape vines are and in summer they’ll often bring some when they visit. Near my house by a busy road there’s an apple tree with tasty tart apples that I made pies from. Sure, there may be pollutants, but apples and other pectin rich foods help take heavy metals out of the body, and chances are there’s less chemicals in them than conventional produce anyway.
Like I say free fruit could be the only fruit so what can be grown that wouldn’t cause problems?
Some nuts would be a good start. Almonds are good and grow well around here. Macadamias do well in some areas around Perth. They'll also feed black cockatoos.
Bunya pine nuts are pretty good, but need cordoning off in autumn (as they do in Hyde Park, Perth) because people have been killed when the huge cones of seeds drop on their head! Not a tree to sit under at the best of times with their wickedly spiny leaves, but much more useful that its oft’ planted relative the Norfolk Island pine!!
Many kinds of citrus would be suitable with the right care. I remember having a great afternoon with some friends once pigging out on mandarines from a tree that we were sure was only there for ornamental purposes.
There’s a fantastic tree called Ziziphus jujuba, commonly called Chinese date, which grows numerous little apple like fruit about the size of olives. They are a tough species which provide a common meeting place in some desert countries, providing shade and food that can be eaten fresh or preserved for later use.
Olives are good public trees with very useful fruit (though obviously not good for hand to mouth browsing)
There are a few bush tucker foods that could be grown too, such as muntries/muntari (Kunzea pomifera), a creeping member of the Myrtaceae family, which has pretty white flowers followed by tasty little apple like berries. It grows on the east coast and is often sold in Perth.
Quandongs are a native species which has deep red skins on pretty nuts.
Some bush foods require some retraining of the taste buds, but they are generally pest and disease free, and don’t need help once established.
Obviously somebody would need to be looking after these things, but if parks had more community input and a little council money to feed the trees a few times a year and have them drip irrigated they could become important meeting and snacking places.
Parks could even be designed to be useful on purpose!!
Or is it just a permaculturist’s dream?

1 comment:

Bruise Mouse said...

I fully agree that parks should be more productive. I am sure that this would also bring more people to these spaces.
I have just come back from 5 months in Berlin and it was so wonderful to see people foraging along the banks of the canal for berries. If only I had spoken better German and know what there were.