Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fruit Tree Walk: Guest post from Jen English of Walking Berkeley

Fuyu persimmon photographed by Georgia during Jen's fall harvest walk.

Jen, thank you for this story of your experiences with fruit trees during your "Walking [all the streets of] Berkeley" project.

My first persimmon tree "experience" occurred, unfortunately, from inside a moving car. It must have been at least 15 years ago in November or December, somewhere on the San Francisco Peninsula. I do not remember the circumstances of where I was headed, the exact location of the tree, or any other details about the moment. But I have a picture of that tree forever imprinted in my head. It was situated on a corner lot, and it took up most of the front yard. I saw it at the time in the persimmon tree's cycle where all of the leaves had turned color and then dropped from the tree, and only the fruit were left hanging from the branches. It was simple, stark, bold, and bright orange all at once. How could just one tree have so many aesthetically pleasing qualities? But as quickly as I saw it, it was gone again as the car moved down the street.

In contrast to this experience from many years ago, my walk of all of Berkeley's streets and paths offered a chance to enjoy persimmons and other fruit trees at a much slower pace. One of the benefits of walking Berkeley's streets over a long period of time was seeing a variety of fruit trees in different stages their growth cycle: bare branches, flowering trees, fruit in all stages of development, and fallen fruit scattered on the ground. I was quite surprised by the great number of fruit trees that were visible to me as a walker -- in front yards, hanging over fences, in parking strips, and even in parks and on other public land -- and often took advantage of this abundance by stopping for some time to admire the trees and to learn more about their characteristics and growth patterns. I saw many easily recognizable fruits -- such as apples, pears, apricots, peaches, and plums -- as well as less familiar trees such as loquats and quinces. I learned that non-fruiting olive trees are much more common that the fruiting varieties, that avocados will grow in Berkeley but probably will not fully ripen, and countless other interesting tidbits about fruit gathered from walking through the seasons.

Last fall I led a fall harvest walk for the Berkeley Path Wanderers Association, where we observed persimmons, pomegranates, citrus, and fruit in season. A fruit tree walk can be done almost any time of year in California, but I particularly like the idea of picking a route that you can re-visit throughout the year to observe the changes in the trees. It would be a good journal project or school activity, or just a nice chance to appreciate seasons where you live. You can definitely count on many discoveries over time. A little over two years ago, for example, I discovered a fruiting banana tree on a walk of San Pablo Avenue. A few months later, many fruit trees and other plants (including significant portions of California's citrus crops) were damaged during a spell of very cold weather for the state. The healthy looking banana tree was reduced mess of brown wilted stalks and fallen leaves. Surprisingly, the tree was not removed, and it slowly recovered over time. A couple of weeks ago I walked by this banana tree, looked up … and saw a bunch of small but healthy looking bananas sprouting amongst the leaves.

2 comments:

  1. I'm here in CA right now and had a blast at the Palo Alto Farmers' Market yesterday, picking up organic and local mandarins, persimmons, pomegranates, and even pineapple guavas! Geez, I miss it here.

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  2. I came home on Sunday to six perfectly ripe persimmons.

    I read about your Thanksgiving plans on your blog. Happy holiday.

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