Have you ever noticed how much food grows in our urban spaces? Here in Hobart I know where to find elderberry trees, blackberries, olives, apples, quinces and figs. As I’m slowly learning a little more about edible natives I’m discovering a whole new range of plants to scavenge for a free feed. The urban bounty isn’t restricted, however, to the plants that grow between the cracks. There’s also plenty of edible goodness going to waste in other people’s gardens. Who hasn’t seen a lemon tree laden with un-picked fruit and longed to clamber over the fence for a handful of fruit? After all, there’s no point letting it go to waste!
But as well as being illegal, trespass is plain bad manners. So when walking a new route home one day and stumbling across a heavily-laden little cumquat tree I resisted the urge to just help myself and summoned up the courage to knock on a stranger’s door. And you know what, permission to pick all I wanted was granted (though I did have to come by a couple of times before I caught someone at home). The next free Sunday I wandered on down and filled up my little bag then spent a few quiet hours preparing the fruit to preserve. Juicy little balls of sour in a sweet-spiced syrup: juice, honey, sugar, cinnamon, clove and brandy, stowed away for a Christmas treat and as gifts-in-kind to helpful friends.
Did you know cumquats are fiddly little things to peel? How my hands ached the next day! It turns out though that the peel is edible and I should have done my research first. Ah well, next time I’ll preserve them whole.
Of course, there’s a price to pay for picking with permission: a jar or two of your handiwork delivered to the grower to show your thanks. I hope she likes them! There’s also something quite nifty to gain: another link into creating community, building trust between neighbours and breaking down the walls we construct along property lines. We know each other’s names now, the cumquat grower and I. We’ve enlarged each other’s world, just that tiny bit more.
Tips for urban foraging:
What have you foraged from your neighbourhood?