Fallen Fruit: Public Fruit Jam this Sunday | Civil Eats

Fallen Fruit: Public Fruit Jam this Sunday

What do you get when you mix L.A. sunshine, a collection of artists and an obscure state law? The Fallen Fruit project.

A few years ago, artist/activist and CalArts professor Matias Viegener stumbled across a California law stating that any fruit that grows on or over public land is community property, even if the trunk is rooted in a private yard. In LA, that means both bounty and variety of fruit.

Viegener joined forces with CalArts colleagues and collaborators David Burns and Austin Young, and the trio set out to find trees that spread their branches over sidewalks, streets and parking lots. They looked for hidden fig trees in city parks and gnarled grape vines on fences. They found plum trees in abandoned lots and olive trees by highways.

Armed with sharpies and recycled paper, they set out to map the public fruit of their city and thus the Fallen Fruit project was born. The group set about trying to feed those most in need by distributing the maps to residents and posting them around the neighborhood. A passage from Leviticus 19 was their guide: When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not pick your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger.

Their website offers a series of LA-based fruit maps and suggestions on creating one for your own neighborhood. The eventual goal is to produce a global atlas of public fruit maps.

newsmatch banner 2022

But the group doesn’t rely just on the city’s existing fruit for the project. As a part of their mission, Fallen Fruit encourages homeowners to plant fruit trees on the perimeter of their property and advocates for the city to plant more fruit trees in public spaces.

Fallen Fruit also organizes community events to let their neighbors get a taste of the wild urban bounty. In the early days, they rallied friends for midnight fruit forages through the concrete jungle, and they now host daytime events, as well, such as the Public Fruit Jam, which will be held for the third consecutive year this Sunday, August 3rd.

The Public Fruit Jam invites LA residents to come together and make jam with fruit harvested and collected from their own yards.

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The kinds of jam we make will improvise on the fruit that the participants provide. The fruit can be fresh or frozen. Fallen Fruit will bring public fruit. We are looking for radical and experimental jams as well, like basil guava or lemon pepper jelly. We’ll discuss the basics of jam and jelly making, pectin and bindings, the aesthetics of sweetness, as well as the communal power of shared food and the liberation of public fruit.

If you are in LA or would like to make a trip there this weekend, you’ll find Fallen Fruit jammers at The Machine Project in Echo Park, 1200 Alvarado Street, from noon to 3pm. And just one month from now, be sure to get another jam fix at Slow Food Nation’s Honey and Preserves Pavilion.

Photos courtesy of Fallen Fruit

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Kristin A. Smith is a freelance writer and educator in San Francisco. It was at the Seattle farmer's market, where she worked for years, that she cultivated her love of organic food. Read more >

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  1. Di Harris
    I just love this concept, I live in SF and have being picking public fruits for years, I would love to join and start one in SF if it has not started already, and currently I am starting a preserving business partner with one of the organic farmer to sell the preseres at Ferry Building.
    Looking forward to hear from you.
  2. jenna
    I was at this event in LA, and it was fabulous! I have been looking for a SF fallen fruit map too. Is it already out there?
  3. David ierce
    I live in Davis and there are a lot of olive trees in town and other fruits. I'd like to learn more about this project so I can start a local branch.

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