Skip to main content

It would be an oversight not to enjoy what small acts of hedonism we can before everything withers, decays, and darkens again, and the back lanes of our neighbourhoods are littered with wasted fruits that went their whole existence uneaten, writes Adrienne Matei.

Vesna Andjic/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

In late summer, my desires for light mischief and personal indulgence surpass the social codes I otherwise live by. This is my way of saying: I pick fruit that is not mine. I’m a person who goes for long, frequent walks, and when I walk, I look, and when I look, I am overcome by what is there to find. To quote the author Charlotte Mendelson: “There’s no English word for the frenzied state into which I’m thrown when I see a tree thick with crab apples, or greengages, or pears. Are you seriously expecting me, a greedy person, to ignore [them]?”

I’ll launch straight into my defense. I have an honour code: I don’t walk up people’s driveways or tread on their lawns; I respect tended gardens and community plots; I won’t take the only, anything befitting of the adjective “prized,” or more than can fit into one hand; I respect the purpose of a fence – I’m not a raccoon or a cat burglar. But when that fence fails to fully contain branches and vines within it, when those plants reach through and over and out towards me, who am I to ignore them? We know not to enjoy the fruits of others’ labour, but what about the fruits of their neglect?

To me, rogue raspberry canes spilling out into back lanes, cherry and fig trees whose fruits have splattered all over the sidewalk, and the occasional Italian plum flourishing beside an alley-facing garage, all inhabit a proprietary grey-zone. In the short, luminous weeks of late summer, I take clandestine advantage of them.

Story continues below advertisement

I attribute my passion for pilfering fruit to a few things. For one, I got a thrill from breaking minor, meaningless rules as a child and I miss those opportunities as an adult. If grabbing a fig and concealing it in my palm as I speed-walk away from a stranger’s house is what does it for me, well, things could be worse. Then, there’s the fact that unusual and wonderfully Edenic varieties of things sometimes grow in forgotten places. When I find those glowing, hot pink sour cherries you can’t seem to buy anywhere in Vancouver, except maybe frozen at the Russian grocer, or those small purple ones that taste like Black Forest cake, I think that maybe life actually is abundant and magical. When I find fresh, soft, sun-warmed figs – so unlike the hardscrabble, anemic ones from the grocery store or those you find, if you’re lucky, bruised and oozing at the farmer’s market – it feels like luxury.

Summer fruit trees offer more than snacking opportunities. As an apartment dweller whose potted golden pothos vines can only do so much, I appreciate mere proximity to lush, fragrant plants. If I had my own garden, I’d fill it with flowers and fruit and shrubs so big I could crawl inside them and live there like some kind of gnome. The Italian writer Cesare Pavese understands my attraction: “These peach and apple trees whose summer leaves are red or yellow make my mouth water even now, because the leaf looks like ripe fruit and it makes you happy just to stand underneath them,” he wrote. I’ll over-spend on fancy candles all year in hopes of recreating the effect of breathing in the musky sweetness of blackberry vines or the sharp, green, coconutty scent you get standing beneath a canopy of fig leaves on a hot, August evening.

There are those who see the worst in my fruit snatching. Once, in high school, I plucked a tart, crunchy apple from a tree that reached one branch over the fence separating a neighbouring backyard from the school’s parking lot. The next day, I arrived at school to discover the homeowner had sawn off the entire branch, apples and all (I can’t believe it was a coincidence). Another time, while out walking on a date, I nabbed a perfect fig from a front yard tree. “There’s probably a little girl who lives in that house who’s been waiting all summer for that fig to be ripe, and now you’ve ruined it,” snapped my date, more judgmental than joking. “And she’ll cry all the way until Christmas, when you’ll probably come back and ruin that, too.”

Yet. somehow, whenever anyone has tried to teach me a lesson about my pilfering, I’ve wound up feeling sorry for them. There’s just something so tense and puritanical about prioritizing restraint with ripe fruit at hand. Late summer is such a fleeting and beautiful season, it would be an oversight not to enjoy what small acts of hedonism we can before everything withers, decays, and darkens again, and the back lanes of our neighbourhoods are littered with wasted fruits that went their whole existence uneaten. What’s a raspberry or plum here and there, to fortify an aimless wanderer? What’s life without snatching sweet little things when you can find them?

Plan your weekend with our Good Taste newsletter, offering wine advice and reviews, recipes, restaurant news and more. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies