Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Foraging: Urban or Sprawl

Saturday morning found the boyfriend and me with our friends, trying to reap the last of the summer weather and summer fruit. Eric and Leigh had come to Mountain View Farm a few weeks earlier and were impressed with the bounty of their berries; they suggested that we fill up now before the end of the season. We headed out on Lowell Road in Everett and before long we had arrived.
We grabbed buckets and headed into the fields. The pickings were a bit slim. Late as it was in the season and popular as this farm was, there weren't a lot of berries to be had. We made the best of it, joking with each other across the rows. The gents had a good time lobbing unripe berries at us and I found that several berries needed to be "quality tested" before I continued to pick that bush.

Kwesi with buckets to fill ** Leigh picking berries ** Berries on the bush
This was definitely a community affair. Although we couldn't see past the highbush shrubs, we were surrounded by a cacophony of languages. We heard Russian and Japanese mixing with English as families tried to keep track of their children in the rows.
After a few hours, even though we hadn't filled our buckets, we had had our fill. As we made our way to the front gate, one of the girls working the farm pulled us aside and mentioned that they had just gotten the go-ahead to open a new section of bushes, with more berries on them. We looked at each other and thought, what the heck?! We went back into the rows and were delighted to find larger, plumper berries clustered on these bushes. We picked in about 30 minutes what it had taken us over an hour to pick before. Satisfied now, we decided that it was time to eat something more than blueberries.
After we settled up, we turned toward Eric and Leigh's to fix lunch. Talk in the car turned to urban foraging--you know, picking fruit from abandoned trees on city lots. Leigh mentioned that she knew of a lot with a fruiting apple tree not far from their house. This was too good to resist!

Willow in abandoned lot ** Pendulous pears ** Kwesi in the apple tree

The lot had an abandoned house on it that had been stripped for all of its parts. There was a lovely old willow and a gorgeous pear in addition to the apple tree. The boys clambered up into the branches and began to throw the fruit down to us. We were a little late for the apples (sadly, tons were rotting below the tree) but on the early side for the pears. We piled them into bags figuring that we could let them finish ripening at home. I felt a bit guilty stealing the fruit from the future owners, but as we drove away we saw a sign for "Proposed Land Use Action." The city is going to demolish the house, and the beautiful fruit trees established there, and put up more condos. Great. I no longer felt guilty about stealing the fruit. Leigh and I are now trying to figure out how to steal the trees themselves! Anyone out there know how to uproot 50 year old fruit trees without killing them? We're kidding, of course, but it's too sad that the city is going to throw the baby out with the bath water.
It was amazing to realize how much food we had gathered just a few miles from Everett city center. We had 35 pounds of blueberries and about 20 pounds of pears between us, plus a few stray apples for good measure. And that's not to mention the crab apples and salal that we could have gathered but didn't. There is bounty here if you know where to look. Now I just need to figure out what to make with 10 pounds of blueberries and 10 pounds of pears. Any ideas?

Lovely crab apples

the perfect balance