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PacificEdge | December 15, 2018

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Along the lane, an edible surprise

Along the lane, an edible surprise
Russ Grayson

“Do you know what they are?”. He was a tall man of middle age, shaven head, with the well-muscled build of someone who works outdoors. And he knew all about those trees that lined this minor street in Randwick.

It was on a whim that we took the lane instead of continuing along St Pauls Street. But it turned out a good decision anyway.

We were walking home from The Spot and we turned into that narrow lane knowing it would take me to the end of an adjacent dead end street. Past the apartments the lane narrows and we follow it, coming around the corner to be confronted with a lane that is different, edibly different. There, along its length, the edge of the lane had been planted to rocket, lettuce, cabbage and assorted other edible greens. Good work, I thought, as I glanced to the other side of the lane. There, along a length of timber fence enclosing the rear of a couple houses was a fine, linear orchard of espaliered citrus trees, one in flower.

A long narrow garden of leafy greens on public land along a lane at The spot.

A bland, uninteresting fence has been transformed into an interesting and edible linear orchard of espaliered citrus trees.

Surprise enough, that, but turning onto the one way street we could not help but notice that perhaps decades ago some edible streets enthusiast had planted quite a number of feijoa, the strawberry guava that yields a tasty, soft fruit in season. It’s not feijoada season yet, however the crimson flowers on the trees held promise of a good season to come.

They were the trees the man asked me if I knew what they were. He had seen me photographing them.

“Feijoa”, I replied. “Strawberry guava”.

“A man comes by here once a year and harvests the fruit”, he told me. I and others take some too. He said they would be better if the council would look after them”.

That I knew was a forlorn hope as the council does not employ horticulturists.

One of the feijoa trees planted along the footpath. These yield tasty fruit in season.

“When they’re in season there’s fruit all over the road and in the gutters”.

Then came another voice, that of a woman walking into her front garden.

“Faijoa”, she told me approvingly.

Seems we had stumbled onto a street of feijoa fans and I thought how good it was that people take so much interest in what grown on their footpaths, enough interest to harvest and eat it.

A pleasant interlude for sure, so we walked on only to encounter a mango tree overhanging another lane from someone’s backyard and, further along, five or so olive trees, three of them planted as street trees with, in the corner of a garden across the road, a magenta lillipilly (Syzygium paniculatum) tree with its purplish, tangy fruit of the cooled seasons.

I doubt most people notice the wild harvest as they walk along the streets. But it is there, silently indicating to those with an eye to urban foraging that our home gardens and public footpaths, even narrow strips along laneways, can become a tasty, edible urban landscape.

Magenta lillpilly, this one growing in someone’s front garden, is an Australian bush food.

One of several olive trees growing beside the footpath.

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