1) You should always ask permission before you take from anyone’s private property. Whatever your personal views are about the ethics of claiming rights to an entire fruit tree (most of which might ultimately go un-harvested), the fact of the matter is that the tree still might be on private property. Personally, I don’t forage from anyone’s front yard unless I ask, and I try and stick to sidewalk fruit trees, or trees that are not on private property. In Rockridge, there is a bounty of fruit during all seasons that is available by the Temescal Creek and along the sidewalks. The map that I made of Rockridge denotes trees that are on private property with a star. Any other tree or bush can be assumed free for the taking. The map that I am sending to friends does not have specific house numbers listed unless I’ve directly asked permission for their address to be included on the map.
2) Take what you need, although it can be tempting to take seven apples instead of the two that you might eat. It can be super exciting to happen upon an avocado tree- for instance- but don’t let the glee get the best of you. If- in the throw of things- you harvest more than you need, you can pass some on to a neighbor or friend.
The photo at the top is of a 3×5 template postcard that I’ve mailed to neighbors asking to harvest from their yards.
Ultimately, I want to facilitate a foraging barter system where I create a database of forage-able fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers and have a small delivery service so that people who have an abundance of fruit can trade with others. This is not a revolutionary idea, and is actually similar to the work that Amity Works did in the Temescal neighborhood between 2004 and 2007.