What better way to spend an otherwise uneventful weekday morning than picking loquats for the needy? Or, more accurately, picking 20 loquats for the needy, then picking and eating one for myself. (Tasting the fruit is one of the many perks of being a volunteer harvester!)
In case you aren’t familiar with them, loquats are small pear-shaped fruit with goldenrod skin, tangy flesh, and large brown seeds. Indigenous to China, loquats have been successfully cultivated in many in places including Japan, India, Israel, Brazil and, of course, the lovely coastal areas of California.
And just judging from the loquat tree on Aerielle’s property in the Tustin Foothills, they seem to be doing very well here. Aerielle has two loquat trees, each one over 40 feet tall with bunches of ripe loquats clustered between the green, glossy leaves. We briefly considered climbing onto the roof of the house to get to the loquats, but decided to leave them for the birds. After all, safety is our number one priority!
There aren’t just loquats on the property. There are also lemons, oranges, avocados, macadamias and persimmons, scattered about by the whims of nature. The land is covered with layers and layers of rich, natural compost from the tree leaves. The air is perfumed with the scent of orange blossoms. Standing in the middle of it all is like being in a different world, a lush microcosm populated by fruit trees.
And that was essentially what Aerielle’s grandfather had in mind when he purchased the property so many years ago. What started out as a couple orange trees to supply Sunkist grew into an edible wonderland, with a different type a fruit within reach at every five paces. This was more than just a hobby; it was his pride and joy. When he passed away, the trees were left to their own devices. Some flourished. Others sacrificed themselves and became compost to help the other trees flourish. But most trees just need a little more of that tender, love and care to produce fruit at their highest potential once again.
That’s where Aerielle comes in. After 17 unsatisfied years in marketing and advertising, Aerielle decides to resign her job and come back to the property that supplied her childhood with fruit to eat, trees to climb, and an early awareness of the magic in growing your own food and sharing it with others. Championing her grandfather’s spirit, Aerielle is on her way to returning the property to its former glory with the hopes that the fruits of her labor will be able to feed her community.
As for today, we harvested 90 pounds of loquats from her trees, enough to feed 240 people. And the numbers will only grow from here.