London's fruit trees offer bountiful urban harvest

An apple tree heavy with fruit hangs over the road from a private garden, unnoticed by passers-by until fruit pickers start the age-old harvest ritual - smack in the midst of London's urban jungle.

Brandishing a long pole, Rupert Kenyon stretches to get the apples from even the highest branches while Marlene Barrett gathers them into a cart, to be sold or juiced.

The city pickers' motivation is two-fold: partly in protest about tonnes of London fruit regularly left to rot, and partly out of environmental concern to promote locally-sourced food.

And they have a wealth of produce to choose from in one of the world's greenest capitals, proud of its many parks, green spaces and private gardens.

"Are those edible?" asked a man, intrigued, as he walked his dog on the leafy north London street where Kenyon and Barrett toiled away.

In reply, Kenyon bit into a slightly dented but still shiny apply. "It has a pink flesh, it's pretty sour but they make nice red juice," he said.

Most of the harvesters are volunteers but their numbers are swelling in London, a city of seven million people with a plentiful supply of trees - but many of them unnoticed by busy local residents.

"There is a lot of abandoned fruit in the gardens. People are not used to eating anything that does not come from a shop," said Kenyon.

Choosing streets at random, the pickers take from publicly accessible trees and parks or knock on house doors to ask owners of fruit-filled gardens if they can harvest them.

At one house, which hid a tiny yard where Barrett had previously picked fruit, only the cleaning lady was home and would not let them in. But thanks to publicity in the local press and a word-of-mouth campaign, the volunteers generally receive a warm welcome.

The Organiclea association, which Barrett works for, collected about 30 tonnes of fruit last year - mostly apples but also pears, plums, figs, nuts and cherries.

The fruit is sold either in seasonal food boxes along with vegetables or is pressed into juice. Other similar ventures distribute pickings to schools or organisations that work with homeless people.

"We are not trying to claim all these fruits are for sale. We are trying more to encourage everyone to see what is there and to make use of it," Barrett told AFP.

And it seems to be working. "We used to collect from the grounds of a hospital. One year, they said: 'We're sorry, we are using the fruit'," she said, smiling.

Big on the pickers' agenda is advocating the benefits of eating locally-grown food as the environmentally-friendly option.

"We don't create the kind of problems that the big industry food system can create in terms of too much packaging and reduced nutrition because things have been stored for such a long time. And then there are the food miles they create..." she said.

The volunteers say the London fruit is nutritious and tasty, and you can find varieties that are not stocked by major retailers.

They also insist there is no risk of contamination by pollution, a claim endorsed by findings at the University of Sheffield in northern England where researchers examined city fruit and found it safe.

However, many remain cautious, like Ahmed Iftikhar, a 26-year-old Pakistani who takes care to wash the pears he eats from a neighbour's tree.

An enthusiastic picker, Iftikhar struggles to get all the pears down before they rot - so welcomed the harvesters when they offered to help during one of their rounds.

With their long pole, the team got some of the hardest-to-reach pears from the top of the tree - a bumper crop from the "big smoke".

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
    Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

    Hollywood targets Asian audiences

    The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

    Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
    Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

    Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

    Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
    10 best girls' summer dresses

    Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

    Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
    Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

    Westminster’s dark secret

    Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
    Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

    Naked censorship?

    The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
    Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil