Apr 20, 2009

What to Do With 500 Plums

Last summer, I had a couple of exchanges that went like this:

Exchange #1:
Me: "Hi Donna! I brought you a bag of plums from our tree!"
Donna: [Breathing a long sigh.] "Well, ok. I'll take them. But only if you take a bag of mine."
Exchange #2:
Me: "Hi Elisa! I brought you a bag of plums from our tree!"
Elisa: "Nooooooooooo!"
Okay, okay!!! I had no choice but to retreat with my plums and make 10 jars of jam. It turns out Donna had at least a thousand plums in her backyard, and Elisa had already been bombarded by way too many well-meaning plum sharers. The problem is that none of us wants to see perfectly good fruit go to waste. Now that Berkeley's plum trees are blossoming, it reminds me that I should start thinking about how to manage the plum crop this year.

Fortunately, a start-up Internet company is preparing to launch a site that may get us out of this, ahem, jam. Neighborhood Fruit is a website with a mapping feature that will allow fruit tree owners to post offers for free fruit, and for fruit-lovers, pie bakers, or hungry wanderers to find fruit instantly. Tree owners could leave bags of fruit on their doorstep or give permission for someone to harvest the tree themselves.

I think this is brilliant! If used widely, it could virtually eliminate the surprising amount of food waste that occurs in people's yards. It could mean that small-scale local food artisans -- people who make pies or preserve fruit, for example -- could greatly reduce the cost of their ingredients, and compete with the big food processing companies. It means that a tree owner who is not physically able to harvest his or her own tree could connect with an able-bodied person who can. And it means that this year, I'll be eating peaches, persimmons, blackberries, and pears, and NOT JUST PLUMS!