Scrumping. It’s a naughty sounding word – something you can imagine Fantastic Aida producing a lewd but beautifully harmonised song about. But it really means nicking apples, specifically apples from over a fence – from a orchard, or someone else’s back garden. It’s a pastel-coloured version of theft – larceny as practiced by Peter Rabbit.
Real scrumpers eat their ill gotten gains on the spot, legs dangling as they sit on a branch of the apple tree. If your pickings go straight out front of your profitable fruit shop, it’s not scrumping, it’s stealing. That said, scrumpy – another name for cider – seems to come from the same origins: “scrump”, a withered old apple (something you might eat if you were scrimping, if you see what I mean).
Scrumping is apple-specific, but doesn’t such a great word deserves to be put to better use? I love the idea of “Falling Fruit”, an app that geo-locates free food – a scrumper’s bible. When you’re caught red handed eating mulberries off a tree that leans over someone’s back fence, surely that’s scrumping? Or harvesting loquats from the park or or gathering fallen oranges on the grounds of the old folks’ home?
With all the contradictory riches of the English language, surely we don’t need to resort to the hateful term “freegan”? (I do have, Thanks to Agnes Varder’s great film “The Gleaners and I”, a soft spot for the word “gleaner” but it’s a bit too arty and agricultural for what we’re talking about here, I reckon)
And this week we’ve discovered stay-at-home or perhaps “passive” scrumping. The neighbour’s teenaged chooks (not Barnevelders as we thought, but bantam Australorps) like our place so much they decided to come over and lay their cute little eggs here.
This takes the acquisition of free food to a new level. Thievery doesn’t get any lazier than sitting on your back deck while your stolen tucker squeezes its way through the fence and delivers itself to your very own hen house.