The following year (2010), I decided to make more of an effort to find and process the mounds of available fruit. I was astonished that people were driving over this source of delicious fresh fruit with their cars in the rush to get to the supermarket to pay a fortune for somthing less fresh and less tasty. The funny thing was that some other people seemed surprised and even offended by my actions. When at work one day I popped out of the front door and picked a pile of delicious juicy cherries from the tree there. While I was washing them, someone I work with passed by and I offered them some. The reaction was next to horror. The conversation went like this…
"Hi would you like some freshly picked cherries?"
"Did you just pick them, just now?"
"Yes, just there, outside the front door."
"I’m not eating them, they might be poisonous, are you trying to kill me!"
Astonished, I ventured to ask another staff member.
"They are cherries, and lovely ones too, go on try one!"
"But a dog might have peed on them!"
"How would a dog get up a cherry tree?"
"Oh, they come off trees do they? Well I’m still not touching them!"
I was as shocked that they did not know that cherries came off trees as I was by the enmity I was shown for having the cheek to eat something picked off a tree. It all seemed very odd to me but actually strengthened my resolve.
The next day I was in the, largely empty B&Q Depo car park, there I found a ridiculous amount of cherry trees, I was questioned by an employee who was tidying up but no other issues arose until I came back to work laden with goodies. Again I was quizzed about my motives and, didn’t I feel embarrassed doing it in a car park? Well. I can think of a lot more embarrasing things, to be doing in a car park than picking bunches of cherries.
Fortunately, both of my children enjoy picking fruit, and eating it too. We began going on short local trips with our home made fruit pickers and suitable containers. We began with cherries because it was that time of year we got so many that we could not eat them all. We had to learn about preserving! Fortunately my partner wanted to make jam – again, children like to help with cooking and like eating things they have cooked themselves. I found that you could dry cherries into giant current-like things, by leaving them on a tray in the car when it was sunny. They tasted delicious and kept for longer, you can also freeze them. It turns out that most fruit can be dried in a similar way.
We drove our car to the community centre, not because we were lazy but it was a tall tree and I needed something to stand on to access the higher fruit. I was soon raking kilograms of tasty fruit off the tree and passing it down to my children to store in their containers. After a few minutes, a couple of inquisitive, feral children sauntered by and piped up.
“Hey Mister, what are you picking?”
“Are you kidding us? We thought they were poisonous berries!”
“Nope, lovely ripe cherries, here, try some…”
After scoffing the said fruit, the children quickly recruited a small but resolute army of waifs and strays and the tree was soon swarming with them. Fortunately, I had already hoarded much of the goodies due to my early intervention and vastly superior equipment, but climbing trees and throwing sticks is good exercise for young kids. I’m fairly sure none of them were actually seriously injured on the spiked iron railings below.
I had a similar incident with a cherry tree next to a railway level crossing. First of all a woman came out of the flats to confront me - I was using their car park to access the tree, which was behind a fence and actually on railway land - but walking down railway tracks with small children has to be heartily discouraged. The woman suggested that I should pay her £10.00 for the fruit (that wasn’t hers and that she had clearly never picked herself). I laughed at her “joke” as we marched off fully laden again. The next day, I noticed (with a surge of pride that brought a small lump to my throat), a small gang of children scaling the battlements and branches. I felt like a positive male role model and I had clearly been a noble influence on the local youth. I’m sure none of these children died of train related deaths either.
It might be worth remembering these tales if you wish to keep all the local fruit to yourself. You will need to concoct some kind of fakery for any curious folk or inquisitive children. Something along the lines of...
“This fruit is highly poisonous and anyone consuming it will die a ghastly and painful death. We have been sent by the council to remove the toxic items in order to prevent further death and hospitalisations.” should do the trick nicely.