Scrumping in the city

Tuesday December 20, 2011 Written by rohan

There is a bounty out there, you just need the right set of eyes to find it.

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Foraging has been part of human culture for thousands of years, with good reason. Foraged food doesn't require anything other than the physical process of picking it from the branch, the water or soil.

As a kid growing up in the country, blackberries and field mushrooms were a big deal, but as an adult I've found that the options expand exponentially. In summer the no brainer is to go bush and hit the blackberries, or the forgotten fruit trees in old paddocks.

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Alternatively, there's the urban tradition of 'scrumping'. I've been a scrumper all my life, and why not! It's a waste to see perfectly good fruit and nut trees drop their goods on the ground in a laneway only to rot. It's an obvious waste of a tasty resource, so I see it as my civic duty to utilise what's provided.

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In Australia, older inner suburbs are hot spots for foraging overhanging fruit trees on streets and laneways. This has a lot to do with patterns of migration, especially in states like Victoria. Many post-war migrants and Europeans planted useful vegetation in their backyards and a lot of the fruit drops on footpaths and streets.

It's not illegal to pick up fruit that's dropped on the ground, but if you're ever worried about encroaching on someone's turf, heck, you can always go ask the owner. Chances are they'll be happy for you to use the fruit, especially as it'll just fall and rot.

A trip out to the country can also provide a good source of free fruit. Apples, pears, walnuts and anything that grows from seed often pop up on roadside strips due to many people discarding fruit whilst driving. Just be careful on roads as they're made for cars not humans. Other places to check are the urban fringes - where the estates haven't yet reached. Here you'll find old discarded farm house lots that might have the odd tree from back in the day.

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This time of the year in the burbs, there are oodles of options with a lot of fruit ripening from now until autumn. Berries, cherries and plums are the first, then the apples, figs and later the nuts. Keep your eyes open to reap the rewards of being a scrumper and carry on the tradition.

Rohan Anderson is the man behind Whole Larder Love, an online portal to an offline sowing, growing, reaping, hunting and cooking world.