Scavenger Crow

I am an insatiable scrounge. When I am out and about, my eyes are restless. They flit here and there, looking for Opportunities. I like to think it’s a carry-over from my woodsy foraging days. Always something out there, in the world. Waiting for me to discover it.

Trash day. Love it. I’m not ballsy or desperate enough to open random trash cans. But when I see some clue about possibly good contents, I have no qualms whatsoever. Broad daylight, kids in the stroller, me rummaging through someone’s trash.

Even as a purely recreational scrounge I have found some good shit down here. Suitcases and rugs galore, and other big stuff that doesn’t fit in the can itself. A few times someone purging for a move, bulging trash bags full of household goods next to the can. A feather down mattress pad, in pristine condition. Innumerable goodies really.

Back in Alaska, in small town life, I used to really dive. As in, grocery store dumpsters. As in, get in, down with the crates of eggs smashed on the bottom corner, cases of milk one day past date, box after box of perfectly ripe produce (did you know that they throw it away at peak ripeness? That’s the standard, because it’s supposed to last one week in your fridge at home…) and all the junk food you could ever hope to resist. I was always nervous at first, headlamp in the dark dumpster, someone watching for the cops. Always elated at the end as we packed hundreds of dollars worth of food into the car.

(I can’t resist giving you a link here to the very last post on my last-life blog, Subsist/Resist, with photos of the prototype for Dumpster Diver Barbie a friend and I made. Mattel spies be warned, I want the all the royalties!)

Here in one of the most dangerous cities in America, I have not summoned the courage to venture out after dark, to lurk behind darkened grocery stores. Seems a bad idea. Not to mention that here there are people with real need. I like to think they are exersizing full license on those laden dumpsters. I like to think, though I suspect I’m wrong, that there isn’t enough left for me.

What I have enjoyed here, in full light of day, without headlamps or black hats, is scavenging neighborhood fruit. I’ve scavenged lemons, grapefruit, kumquats, mandarinquats, satsumas, miniature pomegranates, and now…. mulberries! I’ve not gotten up the gumption to ask about trees I see through fences, dripping with fruit, that whole long list is street-side, or otherwise unclaimed. If I had the time to process tons of fruit, I could gather my wits to knock on some doors, and then I’d really be in ’em.

Most of those fruits I only harvested in small, tasting quantities. The mandarinquat days were glorious, but brief. It was a bush in an abandoned lot. I made many a deliciousness out of those little sour oranges. But then one day, I went to fill my bag and the lot had been razed to the ground. Construction started two days later. I almost cried.

The mulberries were a great tip-off from a friend. I had biked past the tree dozens of times, and just never noticed it. When I finally made it over last week to pick, it was a revelation. What a wonderful little berry! So, so sweet. Our hands were positively sticky with dark burgundy juices. No berry in Alaska makes your hands sticky. The mulberries taste dark, sweet, winey, like too much sun. The kids picked and ate off the (blessed) low branches for a full half an hour while a visiting friend and I cleaned the upper branches. We picked probably a gallon and a half. I was ecstatic! I put about half the load in the freezer (frozen on a tray, then into a bag, so that we could grab a handful at will), and jammed the other half.

Do you scavenge local fruits? If you are lucky enough to live in one of the areas covered by the awesome group Fallen Fruits, you can download one of their maps. They map all the fruits in or over public spaces. Unfortunately, although they’ve mapped several cities in California and Colorado, a couple of other random spots in the US, and quite a few in Europe, the rest of us have to slowly build our own local fruit maps.

Put the word out. Keep your eyes peeled. Get your crow on.

Then swallow your pride and grab a bucket.