BY: CAROLINE ROLF
There used to be a crabapple tree growing in the back yard of my family home. Every year when the apples would fall to the frosted grass below, squirrels would come running for this bountiful feast. What the squirrels wouldn’t eat would eventually end up rotting in the dirt or in our neighbour’s compost. It was such a waste, but I hesitated to gather them for jam or dessert in fear that they were bitter and bad.
If you’ve ever had a similar thought, or simply love blackberries and shaking bushes, now there’s a map to help you. This map will be your guide for finding vegetables, fruit, nuts and hundreds of other plants – all for your snacking delight.
Urban food gatherers and passionate environmentalists Caleb Philips and Ethan Welty launched an open-source website that identifies fruit trees and many other edible plants that are free for the taking in over 500,000 locations across the world. Falling Fruit leads users to dozens of ripe fruit trees in parks, alleys and off the well-worn hiking trails. Anyone can use its data and add more sources of harvest.
Falling Fruit differs from several other urban-foraging sites on the Internet because this is less about the data and more about community based contribution. This mapping system involves foragers sharing information, tips and creating conversation, not to mention donating money to local food charities.
Right now, food is growing in nearly 800,000 locations in North America alone. Sure there are cherry trees and vegetable gardens ready to be foraged, but there are some plants available that you would never think to eat. Take the elm acorn, for example, which can be boiled down into flour, or milkweed, which can be eaten like asparagus.
Want to whip up seasonal salad or warm cobbler for the arrival of spring? Before heading to your local grocery store, consider finding your own ingredients, but be mindful of public spaces and possible contamination. The principle behind Falling Fruit is “waste not, want not”, an idea that is easy to access from our own backyard – literally.