There is something deeply therapeutic about picking your own fruits and vegetables. Arguably, there is even a greater sense of gratitude and humbleness when you grow the fruit or vegetables yourself and harvest them at the very end. Recently, I had the opportunity to visit a public fruit garden on the outskirts of Los Angeles. The Stoneview Nature Center was a small and neighborhood-friendly park of only 5 acres. In the dry and sunny climate, there were a variety of fruits that I had the opportunity to harvest. Particularly, some of the Californian favorites including oranges, lemons, limes and avocados.
Walking into the garden alone was already a calming experience. Like any regular outdoor garden, it had a curved pebbly path but also a visitor centre nearby. The visitor centre helps educate the public about the various flora and fauna in the region but also hosts programs for all ages such as cooking and meditation events. While I was deeply tempted to pick everything in the garden, there were particular rules in place. Specifically, guests were expected to pick any fruit that was ripe and were given pamphlets that informed them of what a ripe fruit would look and feel like.
A unique stop during our walk was this vertical farming model that featured some baby lettuce and kale. A small pump transported the water from a small reservoir to the top of the structure which then flowed downward to all the plants. It’s a fascinating concept that has helped reduce water usage in the dry, desert-like climate of Southern California.
Further along in the garden, we encountered some clementine and orange trees. These trees are so common here that nearly every Californian homeowner has a tree on their property. Often, because of the ubiquity of these plants, many golden orbs are left unpicked by the owners. However, here at the nature centre, guests have the opportunity to harvest as many ripe fruits as possible.
Even further along the path were avocado trees as well, but unfortunately the only fruit we saw was unripe, not ready for the picking. Seeing avocado outside of the supermarket aisle was eye-opening. For example, I would never have known how thick the avocado tree stems were to be able to hold the weight of the fruit.
Luckily there were many lemons and limes available in the garden and we collected a basket of lemons for our home-made fish taco dinner that night. The best part about picking naturally harvested fruits is getting to see the range of variation and imperfections that the fruits have. For example, the lemon we harvested had odd shapes or bruises and markings that may never have made the cut for the supermarket. However, it was still perfectly edible.