Summer Fruit

July through September in the city is rotting fruit season. While the heat exacerbates the foul city smells of the alleys and underpasses downtown, it elevates the  the sharp sweet scent of cherries, plums and finally apples crushed against the concrete sidewalks and asphalt streets. When August is really hot the tang of fermentation rides desultory evening breezes.

Birds and animals play with the fruit, nibbling off bits, but leave the bulk of it to fall to the ground to mold in the shade or metamorphose to hard desiccated lumps in the sun.

One day after I returned from a walk with the dog, sticky fruit pulp smeared on my shoes and my hand slobbbered from pulling a rotting piece of fruit from the dog’s mouth, I took a stroll around the yard searching for native fruit.

The oregon grape, covered with clusters of blue-black fruit just a few weeks ago, had been picked clean. Using a small branch shed by the cherry tree during the last wind storm, I pushed back the lower branches of the prickly leaved plant to be sure. The ground was barren of fruit.

The serviceberry in the back was similarly bereft of fruit on the branches and the ground beneath. Poking through the thick mat of woodland strawberries beneath the cherry tree I discovered bits of dried out cherry but not one sign of a strawberry.

The only native plant with fruit is the snowberry. Those white orbs are new and will remain until deep in the winter when they will be eaten once all the other berries are gone. The huckleberries have yet to flower being one of the harvest time fruits.

If you want to consume native fruit, you need to pick the berries as soon as they ripen. Non-natives are easier. It’s not that the wildlife doesn’t eat other fruit but at least in my yard they go for the native stuff first. This summer I was able to harvest and eat all the blueberries on the bush I planted last summer. I never did manage to get a ripe serviceberry for myself.

Throughout the neighborhood garden beds sprout all manner of netting. Apples and pears wear little socks. People construct all manner of fence and barrier to guard their produce from animals. It seems so much simpler to provide them with native food of their own. Maybe someday the pea patches will be surrounded by hedgerows instead of barriers.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Urban gardens, Wildlife

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