Thursday, October 27, 2011

Urban Foraging, making the most of non-native street trees!


After hearing about the Chinese Hawthorn (Crataegus pinnatifida), Kate really wanted to try some out, so today her, Katrina and I went to pick some on McClure Street.  I hadn’t realized how many are planted along that street: for a block on either side of Cook Street and on both sides of the road are large Chinese Hawthorns.  There have been several frosts this fall and a fairly hard frost last night, which has softened the fruit and makes picking them much easier than last time.  Katrina and I picked about a gallon in a half hour.  A ladder would make the picking much faster because the trees are tall and the branches don’t bend down enough to easily pick while standing on the ground.

Afterwards, we biked down to Superior Street to check on the English Oak (Quercus robur) acorns.  Once again we spent most of our time collecting from the same sprawling oak.  This time the acorns were very brown and loose in their caps; some have fallen on the ground.  I tried out a new technique for picking acorns that I found really fun.  I found a “go fetch” sized stick and hucked it into the branches to knock the acorns down.  When a laden branch was struck they came raining down like a piñata spilling candy.  We actually thought that there might be some connection to harvesting Pinyon Pine (piñon) nuts by knocking the cones to the ground, but evidently the etymology is from the Italian pignata, which is a fat bellied pot.  I also learned that the tradition of breaking a piñata was brought to Mexico by the Spanish, who in turn got it from the Chinese.  In any case, I felt like a child filling my pockets with loot as I scampered around pawing at the ground picking up acorns.  I know, the acorn addiction worsens....

From there we biked up to Fernwood to help Kate pick an Apple tree as part of the Victoria Fruit Tree Project.  From a Spartan variety tree on semi-dwarf rootstock we picked 230 Kg, which was divided up between the land owner, the pickers, and the food bank.  On Saturday we are going to make some more apple cider from our share.
On the way home we stopped by a Chestnut (Castanea dentata) tree in Fernwood that we have been watching for about a month.  Last week when we checked on the tree, only unfertilized nuts had fallen, but today we found a few excellent looking nuts.  I think more good ones will fall, but in general, it looks like it was a very bad year for pollination.  Considering that they aren’t native and throughout most of their native range they have been devastated by Chestnut blight, I was happy to get what I did.  I think Chestnuts might be like oaks in that they drop the nonviable nuts first.
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