Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tree Walk: Eating the fruits of city trees

Fruit trees in the city. You are probably thinking of quince or lemon, apple or pear, peach or plum trees that grow in residential yards. But street and park trees also bear fruit. The yard tree and the public shade tree are part of the urban canopy and have important ecosystem roles. However, the fruit of yard trees like those mentioned above are typically grown for market. The quince or Chaenomeles speciosa (flower pictured above) certainly has an ecosystem role in my backyard; its flowers attract and feed the hummingbirds, who were noticeably absent after the roses faded. Based on an Agroforestry Research Trust fact sheet, I will also look out for honeybees; the quince flowers provide nectar. The fruit will follow the flower. Although it is not Cydonia oblonga - the quince used to make the jelly I ate in Madrid, Spain - the C. speciosa fruit can be made into jelly. I have not had much success with harvesting the fruit in the past. My taste buds rebelled the first time I bit into the fruit. This was three years ago. Since then I have learned that you must prepare the fruit (like making jelly), not eat it raw. Although it’s related to the pear (genus Pyrus) you cannot simply take a bite of it straight from the tree. So this year I’ll prepare quince jelly, slice it, and eat it with cheese. Typical public shade trees bear fruit. The drupe of the hawthorn, the capsule of the horsechestnut, the nut of the oak, the pome of the (callery) pear, and the samara of the elm and maple. But market fruit trees can also be used as street trees. Both Jen of Walking Berkeley and I have posted about public fruit trees (here and here). Despite the presence of public fruit trees, the City of Berkeley does not have a formal market fruit tree as public shade tree program. Orange trees are planted in the sidewalks near downtown Sacramento pictured above. The trees might be part of a design program to honor the origins of the city. According to a Wikipedia entry on Sacramento, Swiss pioneer John Sutter began the region's agricultural industry with the receipt of 2,000 fruit trees. Orange trees are also planted in the sidewalks of Sevilla, Spain (pictured below). Wondering why the Sevillanos were not picking the fruit, I bit into one of the oranges (Citrus aurantium), picked from a tree near the Casa de Pilatos. Perhaps the salted almonds sold by the vendor outside the Casa de Pilatos or the roasted chestnuts sold by the vendor outside the Plaza Nueva were better tasting. However, once I tried the orange, known colloquially as sour or bitter orange, I had the answer to my question. Despite the oral displeasure, I remain a fan of Citrus aurantium. The streets and plazas lined with this tree were beautiful to explore and to linger. Also, the bitter fruit provided another good story from my trip to Andalusia. Related

1 comment:

  1. There are orange trees on the streets of Italy also. I was impressed by the ones I saw along the streets of La Spezia as I went to catch the train to Cinque Terre in 2006. They were interesting both because they had fruit and because their canopy had been pruned into very orderly square cubes. The Italians are definitely more interested in trimming and shaping their trees and shrubs into shapely forms than your average American is.

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