WORDS + PHOTOS HONEY ATKINSON
I recently had the pleasure of hand picking mulberries from a huge 25 year old tree not far from my home. I’d stumbled across an Instagram post by a Camden local showing off his uncle’s massive tree, and commented about how amazing they looked and how I’d always wanted to pick fresh berries. Three weeks later I received a message telling me that the berries were ripe for picking and that I was welcome to arrange a time with his uncle to come and pick what I could. I was floored by this show of generosity and couldn’t believe my luck!
Over the next few weeks we visited the mulberry tree twice, standing amongst the huge branches filling basket after basket of this glorious bounty. In total we collected around 10-15 kilos of plump, juicy berries. After gorging ourselves on as many berries as our tummies could handle, we froze trays of them to use in smoothies, made mulberry compote, stewed mulberry and rhubarb (from our garden) and the most delicious mulberry, apple and rhubarb pie.
There was no expectation for trading or payment of any kind, just a fellow human being sharing their abundance with another family. As I gushed my ‘thank you’s’ over and over I got the distinct feeling that this experience meant a whole lot more to me that it did to them. Picking these berries with my own hands, knowing that the fruit wasn’t simply left to rot, and then cooking and preserving fruit for my family, left me with such an incredible sense of gratitude.
It got me thinking a lot about the amount of fruit that goes to waste and rots underneath trees in backyards, parks and abandoned orchards. We all need to be more proactive about taking advantage of these food sources and not letting them go to waste.
I’ve been researching the concept of ‘urban harvesting’ or ‘scrumping’ and am hoping to share more about this as I discover what avenues there are for those of us wanting to further utilise this abundant food source.
Traditionally, scrumping was about harvesting untended fruit without permission. But these days the term seems to be used to describe picking unwanted fruit more openly (and with permission where possible) and making use of fruit that would otherwise be wasted.
Scrumping has numerous benefits - it saves money, reduces waste, builds community and helps forge new friendships, and is a good way to reduce your footprint by substituting this locally-sourced fruit for store-bought fruit, which as we know, is often transported over great distances.
In order to keep it ethical, we’ve listed a few things that we’ll be taking into account when scrumping…
· Be friendly, and always ask permission if possible. Trespassing is not cool and can get you into all sorts of trouble! Plus you might just make yourself an awesome new friend.
· Don’t take more than you will use. If a tree is full of ripe fruit that will otherwise go to waste, try to find others in your community that will appreciate it as much as you do.
· Do not overharvest and take care not to damage the tree or plant.
· Be cautious about chemicals and other contaminants. It’s best to keep away from main paths, parks and roadsides where Council might spray pesticides.
I also love the idea of encouraging the abundance and participating myself by planting our own fruit and nut trees around the perimeter of our own place, or even doing some guerrilla planting in public spaces. Perhaps in the not too distant future we’ll be able to pay it forward!
It seems that many cities around the world have started scrumping and urban harvesting initiatives to make use of unwanted or unused fruit that would otherwise be left to rot. If you know of or are involved with any Australian initiatives, we’d love to hear from you so that we can add further helpful info to this article. And if you’ve done any scrumping yourself please share your experience with us!