The urban forest provides

The first Edible Tree Tour began outside the Spadina Museum on a sunny September day in 2008. Participants shared freshly picked apples and discovered a new way to look at urban fruit trees with Laura Rainsborough, who had just founded Not Far From The Tree. A year later, the tour moved to Ben Nobleman Park and Cedarvale Ravine, and Susan Poizner, Director of Orchard People shared information on the first community orchard, and how to care for existing fruit trees. Now five years later, the Edible Tree Tour at its heart still carries the same message: the urban forest provides.


In 2009 we moved the tour to August and witnessed a real live fruit pick. With volunteers in the trees above, and smiling “tourists” below, we shared more freshly picked fruit, and witnessed the rule of thirds – one for the homeowner that registered the tree, one for the volunteers who did the work and one for the local food bank.


Edible Tree Tour - fruit picking


It was another beautiful day and film crews even showed up to capture the magic. Again Laura and Susan co-led the tour, sharing their growing knowledge of urban agriculture.


Edible Tree Tour


In 2011 we tried the bitter berries of the European Mountain Ash and tasted some of the delicious preserves from the guys over at Forbes Wild Foods. There was something for everyone – including new ways of seeing the urban forest.


Mountain Ash fruit


We learned about making teas with native berries, pine needles, and the bright red flowers of the staghorn sumac. It seemed outlandish at first, but the more we listened, the more we realized how disconnected we really were. Of course, one has to be careful - the leaders warned us not to grab anything.  “You should always check with someone who knows what they’re doing before foraging for yourself.” Solid advice.


Sumac flower


Then LEAF’s Amanda Gomm taught us about the Kentucky coffeetree and how it got its name from the bitter beverage that settlers sometimes brewed when they arrived in the Carolinian region. Not something I’d care to try, but a cool fact nonetheless.


Amanda Gomm edible tree tour


As had become tradition, we shared apples and caught up with Not Far From The Tree and the community orchard in Ben Nobleman Park, impressed with how much both had grown since the first tour.


How urban apples usually end up


Last year Laura taught us that fruit trees filter what goes into their fruit – keeping out toxins and pollutants. It’s unfortunate that much of our home-grown fruit goes to waste because of the misconception that anything growing in the city must not be fit for eating. But thankfully this view is slowly eroding with the work of groups like The Stop, Foodshare, Friends of Parks, Orchard People and Not Far From The Tree.


Edible Tree Tour


There is so much to learn about urban edibles – and so much to eat! Don’t miss this exciting tree tour this year – you never know what surprise may come!


Urban peaches