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Monday, July 11, 2011

Pick Summer Fruit from the Trees Outside Your Door

Posted By on Mon, Jul 11, 2011 at 1:31 PM

click to enlarge Fruit trees near the SF Weekly offices
  • Fruit trees near the SF Weekly offices

There's nothing quite as refreshing as fresh fruit on a summer day, but sometimes the supermarket is too far to justify a trip just for some fresh plums. So what do you do?

Try walking around the block. There are more than 5,000 fruit trees on public land in San Francisco, and many of them are ready for harvest right now.

One easy way to find out if your neighborhood has any fruit trees is the S.F.-based Neighborhood Fruit. Founders Kaytea Petro and Oriana Tiell created the site with the hope that it would help local San Franciscans enjoy the abundant local fruit that usually goes to waste.

The site has two parts: one allows people with fruit trees to swap and trade, the other maps out trees on public land. Tiell told SF Weekly that their goal was to create a community. "The idea is to really find something locally," she says. "You want to go down the street and be connected with someone who is really close by. Otherwise you could go to a farmers' market."

Neighborhood Fruit is easy to use. All you need to do is put in your ZIP code and the distance you're willing to walk, and the site will show you all the nearby trees that are in season. Click on the tree, and the site will identify what type of fruit it bears. Some trees also come with helpful notes. "You will need a fruit picker!" Petro notes of some plum trees. Conveniently, the site also teaches you how to make your own fruit picker, if you are intent on doing some serious foraging.

According to Tiell, the Mission District is a particularly good area to find fruit right now, as its many plum trees are in season. She also suggested checking out the blackberry bushes on Bernal Heights in August. While plums and loquats are most abundant right now, there is a huge range of fruit to be found in the city year-round, including peaches, avocados, lemons, and figs.

The site has its flaws, however, because while it identifies fruit trees, it does not guarantee that all the trees on the map currently have fruit. If you click on the fruit name, you can check to see if the tree is fruit-bearing. Unfortunately, many trees are labeled as "not sure." SF Weekly set out to test the map, and came back only partially successful. In theory, though, the more users there are on Neighborhood Fruit, the more frequently the statuses will be updated.

If you come across a fruit tree that isn't identified on the Neighborhood Fruit map, Tiell advises caution. "I would advise people to basically use common sense," she says. "If it's obvious [what the fruit is], of course, go for it. But unless you really know what it is, don't eat it."

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Caroline Chen


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