Saturday, August 25, 2012

Free fruit fights back

Photo: Gravenstein apples, Putney Farm

All my life I seem to have had a powerful instinct to gather food. When blackberries ripen along the Serpentine Dike, I get my bucket and go down to pick.

In East Vancouver, I knew the Italian prune plum trees that grew in a nearby park. Our daughter was little; sitting on Dad's shoulders, she got an early start on food gathering by harvesting plums.

Down the road from our present home, before the abandoned apple orchard was sold, I liked to stop on my way home from work to fill my pockets or bag with the tart green apples and turn them into delicious applesauce by cooking them with water alone.

A few trees have survived the building boom to become part of the park, and I still stop from time to time. Gravensteins are delicious old-style garden apples that cannot be found in the shops. Heritage varieties, as they're now called -- a "limited edition" is a specialty product in California. 

Driving along a back street in Vancouver the other day, I thought I saw a treeful of ripe apples and stopped. Those tart yellow-green translucent beauties were hanging in a tree above the boulevard. Public space; fair game for picking.

When I stood beneath the tree, the apples were out of reach, and I looked around for something to help me knock some down. Nothing.

Unwilling to leave empty-handed, I reached up and wiggled a branch. One apple fell, but not onto the soft grass of the boulevard. It hit me square in the face, hard enough to give me a fat lip. Now what kind of message am I supposed to take away from that?

Picking free apples that others ignored, before they fell on the ground to rot and be wasted, had seemed to me to be an act of civic responsibility. I never expected to get beaned by my quarry.

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