After a looooooong winter, I am celebrating the return of local fruits and veggies. As a child growing up on a farm, this time of year I would get off the school bus and eat my way through the strawberry fields before making my way to the house.
As a downtown Kitchener dweller, I thought that I had given up the joys of popping freshly picked berries, right into my mouth, in exchange for the joys of city living. This week I was proven wrong by the humble yet delicious service berry.
Sometimes called the Saskatoon berry, I first encountered these succulent purple berries in my mother-in-law’s backyard garden. My in-laws freeze these luscious little berries to put on cereal in the winter time. That is, they freeze the ones that don’t end up in my mouth…
Now that I can identify service berries, I see them everywhere, and let me tell you, there is a bumper crop this year! Victoria Park is full of service berry trees, weighed down with fruit. I walk through the park for a snack every chance I get, and I’m never alone. This week I’ve had the pleasure of snacking on service berries with folks experiencing homelessness, mom’s pushing strollers, heavily tattooed teenagers, and refugees enjoying their first few days in Canada. Under ordinary circumstances, we would probably have walked silently past each other with our heads down. Gathered around the service berry trees, though, we share tips about which berries are the sweetest (the darker ones) and watch with anticipation as folks step off the path to enjoy a handful of service berries for the first time. “I always thought these things were poisonous!” the new converts often say.
I have an idea: let’s plant fruit trees! Lots of them! Imagine a city where the medians are filled with cherry and apple and pear trees rather than decorative shrubs. Imagine the front yards of our homes, businesses and churches planted with fruit trees, with signs inviting passersby to stop and have a snack. That’s the city I want to live in.
Of course, planting fruit trees is a long term vision. This is the opposite of fast food. Service berry trees, for example, won’t hit their maximum yields till 12 to 15 years after they are planted. But why not start not to create the future we want to live into? A future with fruit trees.
At PiE, we’ve been inspired by this part in the book of Jeremiah where the prophet Jeremiah encourages folks who are living in exile to “plant gardens and eat what they grow.” And here, Jeremiah’s talking gardens of olive trees, which can take decades to produce fruit, but can live for a thousand years. Now that’s a hopeful act!
Like Jeremiah and the exiles, we can’t transform our cities or our circumstances overnight, but we can plant fruit trees. We can stand with friends and strangers around a service berry tree, our mouths stained purple, and feel at home.