Streets paved with oranges

Standard oranges as street trees in Sorrento in midwinter

Standard oranges as street trees

Growing up on the Murray River in South Australia, I know a bit about oranges.

Each morning, the schoolbus drove past row upon row of grapevines and fruit trees, taking us (reluctantly) to class with kids from Berri, the next town along, with its juice packing plant, cannery and stinky wine makers. We played “baby jesus” under the mandarins and grapefruits on my auntie and uncle’s citrus block.  And of course, I’ve surveyed the great, flat sweep of the mallee from the viewing platform of that mighty SA landmark, The Big Orange.

But growing up, I never witnessed fruit trees quite like the ones on the Amalfi coast.

The Italians could teach lawn-loving Anglo Australians something about growing food. In fact – thinking about the fertile backyards of the first generation migrants that lived in my grandfather’s neighbourhood in Adelaide, backyards crammed full of loquats, olives, tomatoes and apricots – they already have.

Freemont mandarins

My vibrant and delicious little Freemont mandarin. What is it doing in a garden when it should be promenading in the street?

Even from the train, we could see that every scraggy patch of dirt between the tower blocks on the southern fringes of Naples had its well tended veggies and caged fruit trees.  Fennel, broccoli and artichokes found a place between holiday villas and upmarket boutiques on the vertiginous slopes of gobsmackingly gorgeous Positano.

And the mid-winter streets of Sorrento were lined with laden oranges, glowing under the streetlights as the well-heeled townsfolk celebrated the Epiphany – La Befana – in their passegiata finery.

What a grand notion!  Fruitful city streets; boulevards and avenues of lemons or pears or mangos!  Why doesn’t every city and town look like this?  Okay, it might take gun-toting fruit police patrols to keep the street trees looking good for the tourists.  Will I lose any shred of PC respectability if I say… it might just be worth it?*

*Obviously, I don’t mean this.  Nor, just to clarify, do I support Switzerland’s strategy of recruiting, via conscription, geranium police, a cadre whose mission is to guarantee a consistently high standard of floral displays on balconies throughout the summer months.  In case you were wondering.

7 thoughts on “Streets paved with oranges

  1. How wonderful it would be if the huge expanses of lawn in many Australian yards were turned into food production or native flowering plants. No drone of fuel mowers and whipper-snippers every weekend and plenty of vegetation for wildlife to use as well. In my childhood, most families had chooks, a few fruit trees, vines and a vegetable garden and neighbours shared produce. If there were lawns, they were actually used by kids for backyard cricket etc. I see a lot of lawns these days that get used for nothing except mowing! Great post again.

    • Yes, I find it hard not to be judgey about lawns. The balance between natives and food plants is trickier…. We are pretty lucky – we can get our honey from inner city beekeeping friends, and trade preserved veggies with workmates. I think these things are coming back – for a while I did a few trades with local LETS scheme. I am firmly convinced it will all have to come back… keeping chooks seems to be getting more popular again. Yay! Thanks for reading Jane – I always enjoy your comments.

      • Thanks for that Jeff – interesting post. I must say our “sward” (lawn would be stretching the truth) does do decent service as fodder for our chooks, and possibly habitat for the curl worms that seem to be a favoured snack of the bandicoot that (I think!) visits our garden. That’s despite the fact that it’s a panoply of various weeds rather than any kind of turf. Ideally I’d like to replace it with a “lawn” of native grasses and sorbs… Areas of grass plus dense shrubs seem to be a good habitat for the smaller birds that are in decline in Australian suburbia so that’s worth thinking about too.

  2. Just read Jeff’s comment and post. I think lawns that are allowed to flower/seed and that are a mixture of plants can be great for pollinators and birds that enjoy the insects in them, but the lawns that I see in my neighbourhood tend to be heavily fertilised, sprayed for weeds, consisting of one exotic species and kept too short to allow them to seed. I think it’s these large expanses of highly manicured lawns that you and I are talking about when we are hoping for change. It depends on the kind of lawn doesn’t it? We are in a privileged situation to actually have land to use as lawns. I remember when a Chinese friend of mine moved to Australia. He immediately set about turning his yard into vegetable gardens to feed his family. He was rather shocked to see all the lawns in our country. I recently read this article about “How to Grow Food in Slums – Lessons from the Sack Farmers of Kibera” which is a reminder of just how privileged we are. 🙂

      • When you think about it, you could almost consider it a version of “conspicuous consumption” – like the middle class women of leisure in the nineteenth century…. “we can afford not to put this person/space to work”….

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