My sister lives in Los Angeles, one of the most polluted and highly trafficked cities in the world. While this vast metropolis may not seem terribly life-giving, Los Angeles is actually riddled with lush fruit trees that often go neglected because most people spend too much time in their cars to know they exist.
Fallen Fruit is a mapping and manifesto for all the free fruit we can find. Every day there is food somewhere going to waste. We encourage you to find it, tend and harvest it. If you own property, plant food on your perimeter. Share with the world and the world will share with you. Barter, don’t buy! Give things away! You have nothing to lose but your hunger!
I’ve been somewhat obsessed with this idea of “gleaning” food ever since I saw the French documentary, The Gleaners and I. Since that film I’ve been acutely tuned into opportunities for gleaning and am especially excited when I find these opportunities in the city. London’s pickings are pretty slim, except during blackberry season when Abney Park and the New River Walk are glutted with ripe berries. So when I went to LA to visit my sister last January, I couldn’t wait to check out the fruits of its surprisingly lush landscape.
Los Angeles city law is as follows: any tree limb that branches over a dividing fence becomes the property of the receiving person. If that branch happens to carry a load of fruit then the fruit becomes the property of the person who has it hanging in their yard. What if the branch hangs over council property? It becomes public fruit.
Fallen Fruit has some maps of the public fruit trees in various sections of LA. Unfortunately, my sister’s neighborhood in Redondo Beach was not among them. So we committed a bit of a green faux pas and drove up to Sherman Oaks and were flabbergasted by what we saw: grapefruits, kumquats, lemons galore, oranges, limes, and were the season right, avocado, pomegranates, apples and more. It was insane and we brought home buckets of citrus ripe for the eating and juicing, feeling good about the fact that they wouldn’t go to waste rotting on the ground.
After this experience, my sister and I saw LA with an entirely new set of eyes. Everywhere around us we noticed fruit. And where we couldn’t see fruit, we wondered which trees were fruit-bearing when in season. We started looking up all kinds of plants in Wikipedia, trying to learn their seasons and what the trees looked like so we could spot them. It would take years to hone this skill, but this was the first time in my life I actually felt compelled enough to learn about plants that I actually did something about it.
By the end of my trip I spotted a fair handful of fruit trees in Rendondo Beach and decided to make my own Fallen Fruit map of the area. Here it is, a la Google map:
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Even if you live in a big massive city, chances are it bears some fruit (or veg) that needs a home. Next time you’re out for a walk, look for it. Make your own map. And the gleaning doesn’t end at fruit. Herbs and edible leaves often grow wild in cities. In my college days at Illinois, I used to spot rhubarb growing through the sidewalk cracks in my neighborhood. Need more inspiration? Check these out: