X351: X Marks The Spot

Mapping Feral Food

Dates, ginger, avocados, lemon grass, ice plant, lemons, flax, borrage, peppers, :snails, banana leaves and bananas. These are just a few of the publicly available things found on park grounds where I live. A couple of these items are semi-public because they are in a resident’s space – but the resident has offered free picking to all.

I wrote about this concept earlier this year here, here, here and here. I daydream about my green plan to plant mesquite trees, pine nut and an apricot or plum trees this next year or the following year.

Throughout 2009 my walking will include building a map beyond my little community and into the larger beach community. The above map isn’t really my feral food map. It is actually the map I used to identify telephone poles to be painted. But, it is the same background I see myself using to begin recording these food locations.

When I wrote about feral food, mapping food and gleaning before I got a comment about urban pesticides. This is something I hadn’t considered before, but feel pretty safe. My community does zero maintenance of any landscape, so spraying is also not included. Individual property owners might, so I will try to ascertain who does and who doesn’t.

Only recently did I realize all of the fruit lying on the ground around the pool. I’d never paid attention, to the 9 large date trees surrounding the pool. Comparing knowledge with several neighbors, it was clear none of us knew fuckall about identifying, growing or harvesting dates. So, I googled and now share the following bits of information. For me the biggest discovery was that Iraq used to supply 80% of the world’s dates. Moreover, dates have been critically important to Iraq (the name western powers gave this area) and all of the middle east for thousands of years. Dates are the source of sweetness for this part of the world.

The vastness of United States’ empire building destruction hasn’t even begun to be exposed. Aaargh . . Back to the date.

As the date palm grows in both male and female varieties, and in the wild is pollinated only by wind, without human involvement it gives out little fruit. Early people learned to place male flowers amongst the female, thus insuring the transfer of pollen. The Sumerians were cultivating the palm by about 5000 BC. This was one of the earliest efforts by human beings to deliberately create a staple, reliable source of food.

[. . . ] Dates are grown similarly in many places, but the best example of an organic method of growing the date palm comes from 0man, where the palm makes possible what we call three-tiered agriculture. The tall palm shelters the shorter, broader citrus tree which in turn gives shade to sweet potatoes, squash and lentils, all sharing the water below. Palms grown in this way are grown in rows with irrigation, as are the huge groves of commercial growers. And nothing is wasted of this valuable plant. Even today building materials, mats, tools, cattle feed, even landfill derive from the palm.

There is much research ahead for me to identify the variety of date in my community and if it needs to be pollinated manually. I found this link and it is full of fun facts about how to do this. Even so, where and when to acquire male flowers and when and how to pollinate still is a big fuzzy blob in my brain. Like so many projects I have undertaken or planned, I just need to take it as it comes.


Chile said...

There are lots of palms in Tucson but apparently few produce dates. Maybe it's due to the pollination issues.

However, I did splurge and buy dates (from California) at the Farmer's Market on Sunday. They had 9 (NINE!) varieties so I asked for a small quantity of each, labeled, so we can have a taste testing at home. The most interesting was a slender seedless date that is produced without pollination.

Once we move, I intend to do a produce map including feral fruit trees, folks with excess garden produce they're willing to trade, and native edible plants. I'd hoped to buy a detailed street map for this but one has not been produced for the county we're looking at.

katecontinued said...

This is something I want to do and haven't done much planning about how I am going to approach it.

Good energy being sent your way on your move.