Living off of fallen fruit: Organizations and neighbors are harvesting fruit trees

Oct. 18, 2011, 1:37 p.m.

With high prices at supermarkets and transportation an issue, some South Los Angeles residents have opted to reach out their hands and see what they can grab.

For some, it's more than they could ever had hoped for.

Rosa Quintana has several fruit trees planted on her property. Although she likes to eat her tangerines, mangoes and green apples and share them with her family and neighbors, sometimes it's just too much to keep all to herself.

“There’s been people who’ve tried to climb my fence to supposedly grab a lemon,” she said. “A lot of people try to pick fruit off my trees or stop and stare at my garden.”

The same goes for her mango tree in her backyard. While painting furniture outside once with her kids, she was startled by a man who had crossed over to pick a mango or two.

“I don’t mind if they ask, I’ll give them some, but please don’t climb over,” she said.

Picking fruit off of a neighbor’s tree isn’t anything new. But using those trees as main sources for food may startle those who rely on mainly on grocery stores for their fruit.

Community Services Unlimited, Inc. is an organization headquartered in South LA that helps people harvest their own fruit and share the rest with others and grow their own mini urban farms.

“We talk to homeowners and harvest their fruit,” Neelam Scharma, Executive Director of CSU Inc. said. Many home owners and renters don't have the time to harvest so much fruit or sometimes don't know how said Scharma. CSU Inc. helps those people with the harvesting and has even planted fruit trees into people's properties.

“It's an exchange and we’re happy to train them,” Scharma said.

Scharma said harvesting fruit trees on public property is harder.

“In South LA there really isn’t any [public fruit trees]. You’re lucky if you get any," Scharma said.

Still, CSU Inc. has planted trees on public sidewalks but only if the people living nearby are there to take care of them.

Fallen Fruit, an organization has created fruit maps of several Los Angeles neighborhoods. They say fruit that falls outside of private property and onto public property is a free for all. So far, they have mapped out neighborhoods in Echo Park, Silverlake and others. South Los Angeles is yet to be mapped out by them.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa launched One Million Trees, an initiative that aims to plant trees all throughout the city of Los Angeles on public property. While the effort aims to plant trees, it does not include fruit trees on public sidewalks.

In the long run, Scharma said, it doesn't matter if planted trees are fruit-bearing.

“Trees anywhere are beneficial. They create oxygen, a greener climate. Its one of the reasons the city has caught on to them."

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