by BOP Intern Sebastian Lim
Baltimore City, on the surface, seems to be a congregation of expansive businesses, busy people, and a lively harbor. However, just a few miles outside its downtown area, in the small neighborhood of Waverly, lies a hidden treasury of fruit trees. Over the years, Forager Greg, through curiosity and passion, found and gleaned from these forgotten gems within the community as a personal hobby. He discovered entire blackberry, apple, grape, and fig trees that grow an abundance of fresh fruit, enough for several buckets. However, up until last Monday he kept this discovery private.
Rabbi Cardin, Intern Elena Makansi, and I were lucky enough to join Greg in exploring Waverly and some of the undiscovered fruit trees in this colorful neighborhood. We began our journey at the Giant Supermarket on 33rd Street and made our way east through Waverly and then west along the edges of Charles Village. Amidst the vibrantly painted residences we found two small public orchards, two enormous blackberry bushes, three apple trees, an Asian persimmon tree, grapevine, and other fruit trees.
While traversing through the quiet streets, Greg showed us his home. He introduced us to his hardworking wife Cindy, who brought us to their backyard. It was full of color and life, ranging from soy plants to a plum and fig tree, samples of which they generously offered us. When I say that was the best tasting fig I have ever eaten, I mean it (and I have eaten plenty of figs!)
However, what was most memorable during our tour was when we met a gracious couple with an apple tree. Standing in the back alley next to this glorious old tree, Greg called out to see if anyone was home. A few moments later, from the balcony above our heads, the owner came outside and greeted us. He explained that the apple tree was having some problems, and unfortunately, we could tell. The trunk was covered in galls (small bumps), and the apples bore a few spots. His wife and daughter, whom we had passed taking books to her mother’s house next door, joined us. She told us she was eager for someone to help with their fruit tree.
“We would be more than happy to share our apples with you,” she said. “But the tree has been having problems. I called a few people to take a look at it and tell us what’s wrong and what we could do, so its not like I haven’t been trying. I love this tree.”
We exchanged contact information and agreed to connect her with local training programs we are organizing with the Baltimore City Extension Service .
Sadly, in our walks we also discovered that in the past two years alone, a robust grapevine and a prolific pear tree were cut down by their owners, for no other discernible reason than they were not wanted.
It hurts to see that, especially in a city where one in five residents lives in food deserts. The BOP is here to help harvest unwanted fruit, to take this unwanted “waste” and turn it into “abundance.”
We welcome your assistance. Please register the fruit trees you know about, like the couple’s apple tree or Greg’s backyard garden. Every productive tree can help others in Baltimore not only gain fresh access to fruit, but also see and understand the hidden gifts the community holds. That gift is not only the gleaned fruit, but also the charity and kindness of fellow neighbors.