A feast for foragers when fruit is ripe for the picking  

Posted by Big Gav in

The SMH has an article on a variant of guerilla gardening (guerilla harvesting ?) on foreclosed and vacant lots in the US - A feast for foragers when fruit is ripe for the picking.

As she does every evening, Kelly Callahan walked her dogs through her East Atlanta neighbourhood. As in many communities in a city with the 16th-highest foreclosure rate in the nation, there were plenty of empty, bank-owned properties for sale.

She noticed something else. Those forlorn yards were peppered with overgrown gardens and big fruit trees, all bulging with the kind of bounty that comes from the high heat and afternoon thunderstorms that have defined Atlanta's summer.

So she began picking. First, there was a load of figs, which she intends to make into jam for a cafe that feeds homeless people. Then, for herself, she got 2½ kilograms of tomatoes, two kinds of squash and - the real prize - a Sugar Baby watermelon.
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''I don't think of it as stealing,'' she said. ''These things were planted by a person who was going to harvest them. That person no longer has the ability to. It's not like the bank people who sit in their offices are going to come out here and pick figs.''

Of course, a police officer who catches her might not agree with Ms Callahan's legal assessment. And it would be a rare bank official who would sign off.

But as the world of urban fruit and vegetable harvesting grows, the boundaries around where to grow and pick produce are becoming more elastic.

Over the past few years, in cities from Oakland, California, to Clemson, South Carolina, well-intentioned foraging enthusiasts have mapped public fruit trees and organised picking parties. Volunteers descend on generous homeowners who are happy to share their bounty, sometimes getting a few jars of preserves in return.

There are government efforts to turn abandoned land into food, too. In Multnomah County, Oregon, officials offer property that has been seized for back taxes to community and governmental organisations for gardens.

But with more properties in foreclosure and large stretches of vacant lots available in some cities, a new, guerilla-style harvest is taking shape.

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