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Published on April 15th, 2010 | by Michael Ricciardi


Reaping the Urban Harvest: Saving Wasted Fruit & Eating Well


Seattle’s Community Fruit Tree Harvest organizes to gather and share the city’s annual bounty of free fruit.

Seattle’s long-standing nickname is ‘The Emerald City’ due primarily to its abundance of urban trees and assorted foliage, much of which remains green all year round. A large percentage of the seasonal greenery is comprised of fruit trees like cherry, plum, pear and apple. And sadly, whether on private land or public, a huge volume of this perfectly edible food falls to the ground and rots…

Local Seattle organizations team up to prevent wasted food and to share the bounty.

In many cases, the fallen fruit is so plentiful that sidewalks and streets become covered with the soon-to-be-mashed-up fruit.

This wasted harvest has prompted many local residents to organize and harvest these abundant urban “crops”. The Community Fruit Tree Harvest was created to put an end to the massive waste of fruit food, providing central gathering places for urban harvesters to drop of their fruit surplus, and even distributing the food to food banks and homeless shelters.

The harvest is coordinated by several local orgs including Solid Ground, City Fruit, and Community Harvest of Southwest Seattle 
The community effort matches willing harvesters with folks who have unpicked fruit trees.

And there is no shortage of local fruit trees to pick. In my neighborhood alone (Wallingford), we have a plentiful supply of cheery trees, plum trees and pear trees. Each fruit season, since moving here in 2000, I have gathered up a bag or two of delicious dwarf plums and red cherries–always regretting not gathering more, knowing that so many would end up rotting on the ground. And each fall, I also gather pears from my neighbor’s pear tree,¬† which conveniently over-hangs into our yard.

Information on all aspects of urban harvesting, including growing organic food, can be found at Urban Farm Hub which covers the urban agriculture movement in the Puget Sound region.

Of course, many folks harvest the fruit independently for their own needs. This works fine for fruit trees and berry bushes on public land, but as far as private land (like your neighbor’s unharvested pear tree), it is recommended that you get permission first.

If you are concerned about this wasted bounty of fruit, and even herbs and vegetables, but, there is no local organization in your town or city, consider contacting Neighborhoodfruit, which is a ‘growing” national movement that advises and supports urban harvesting.

Alternately, if you are motivated to start up your own urban harvest, Seattle’s Solid Ground has a free handbook for you called GATHER IT! How to Organize an Urban Fruit Tree Harvest (compiled by Gail Savina).

For local folks, Solid Ground also publishes a PDF formatted newsletter ‘Lettuce Link’ which contains a map of prime urban harvesting areas in Seattle.

top photo:

cherries (prunus avium) by Gulmammad on wikipedia under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0

second photo:

courtesy of urbanfarmhub.org


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About the Author

Michael Ricciardi is a well-published writer of science/nature/technology articles as well as essays, poetry and short fiction. Michael has interviewed dozen of scientists from many scientific fields, including Brain Greene, Paul Steinhardt, Arthur Shapiro, and Nobel Laureate Ilya Progogine (deceased). Michael was trained as a naturalist and taught ecology and natural science on Cape Cod, Mass. from 1986-1991. His first arts grant was for production of the environmental (video) documentary 'The Jones River - A Natural History', 1987-88 (Kingston, Mass.). Michael is an award winning, internationally screened video artist. Two of his more recent short videos; 'A Time of Water Bountiful' and 'My Name is HAM' (an "imagined memoir" about the first chimp in space), and several other short videos, can be viewed on his website (http://www.chaosmosis.net). He is also the author of the (Kindle) ebook: Artful Survival ~ Creative Options for Chaotic Times

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