August 20, 2009

How I drank a street tree


When I lived in Berkeley, I exchanged fruits and herbs with Forage Oakland. From one exchange, I received nocino - an Italian liquer - made from unripe walnuts from Delaware Street for nocino I made from a Parker Street walnut tree growing in the sidewalk. I am an Eat Street Trees! advocate - a program of localecology.org that promotes the planting of street trees that produce fruits for human consumption. Although I did not eat the walnuts, I did drink their extract. It's an acquired taste (read: bitter, medicinal) and best served chilled and on ice.


The walnut tree on Parker Street.


Walnut shells courtesy of neighborhood squirrels.


The recipe I used was published by the Hammon Company but the website no longer works. Here's a similar, simple nocino recipe from Simply Recipe. After a few months of steeping, I brought the nocino to a party where a friend of Italian heritage recommended a longer steeping with slices of lemon. Here's an image of a finished product.

Question: Have you ever eaten fruit from a street or park tree? If yes, what fruit?

5 comments:

  1. So, I have to admit I'm a little bit squeamish about street foraging. How do you know if it's okay with the owner and/or safe from spraying? Although I did pick a bunch of blackberries at a park today with only minor qualms about the latter. I do see olives in CA that I wonder about, would be fun to pick and preserve. Does Forage Oakland ID trees that are good and send teams out to harvest? I'll have to look at the link! I'd love to try lemony nocino someday, but no walnut trees here that I know of. Cool that you made some!

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  2. Definitely check out Forage Oakland. The founder, Asiya Wadud, is preparing a how-to forage in neighborhoods manual.

    In Berkeley it was easy to forage from fruiting trees planted in the sidewalk and I assumed they were not sprayed. Am eyeing a peach tree in a nearby park here in NYC.

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  3. The nice thing about foraging in Central Park is that they post signs when they use insecticides and herbicides, so you know what's safe (and what isn't). From trees, I harvest Amelanchier berries, black cherries, and Mulberries (both white and red), all from the park. Oh! also Gingko nuts.

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  4. I will admit that foraging from trees in our neighborhood and in public right of ways is one of my favorite things to do.

    Contacting the property owners and asking if they are willing to part with some of their fruit has been a great experience. I have met new people and taken them some of their fruit back in the form of pies and jam.

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  5. Chris, Ellen Z., thank you for the comments.

    Ellen - how do you eat the ginkgo nuts?

    Chris - the ginkgo allee photo on greenspade is breathtaking! (http://greenspade.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/ginkgo-mrhayata.jpg)

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