Want To Pick Your Own Food In The City?
For some people food can be a scarce commodity. Yet even in the cities there is food all around us that goes uneaten every year. A new website called Falling Fruits has been set up to help map the places where these foods are in public places and can be legally picked and consumed. It started out as a venture by Ethan Welty, a University of Colorado graduate student, to keep track of these foods for locals in Boulder, Colorado, and is now worldwide.
It all started when Welty was looking for some extra apples to make his homemade apple cider (he also makes fruit beers and jams). He wandered the streets of Boulder and noticed that apples abounded -- as did many other fruits. By the end of the summer he was getting all of his fruit off the streets. He started mapping where all the fruit trees were so that he would be able to find them more easily the next year.
Eventually, with the help of his friend, Caleb Phillips, he set up a website with his maps. Together they founded Falling Fruits. The website works in a similar way to Wikipedia and people can log in and add fruit locations in their neighborhoods. In addition to this they scour the Internet to find existing information to add to their database to make it the most comprehensive. They are a volunteer-run company that relies on public donations to operate.
"The response in other countries was great enough to push us. It basically turned us into a global project," Welty said.
While Welty and Phillips started with just Boulder, the website now supports over 1,500 cities in 50 countries around the world. The pair is now working on an app so that people will be able to access the maps on the go. They know that they aren't going to end world hunger this way, but they want people to rethink how they get their food.
Many people, even in Boulder, have not become aware of this website yet. I know a number of people who would love it because they do pick foods locally when they can. One neighbor has gotten cherries that way and another goes picking mushrooms in the mountains. I have been on the receiving end of both of these tasty treats.
So far only fruit trees are on the site for Boulder -- a place I know has more than just trees to offer. Hopefully the site will start adding shrubs like raspberries and blackberries, and vines like grapes. In a perfect world it would one day add other local finds -- like herbs and greens. We'll leave wild mushrooms to the experts since it is easy to make yourself sick with those. Overall the website says that they have more than 776 types of edibles represented.
"Imagine if we made a choice as a society to cover our cities in edible plants," Welty said. "We could do that."