Can I Eat That? A Guide to Fruit Bearing Trees

Eating fruit off a tree is probably something that you remember doing as a child: we have all done it. Maybe you had fruit trees in your yard growing up or maybe you stole some from your grouchy neighbor’s house when you thought he wasn’t looking. But now that you are older, you probably have questions about whether or not it was actually safe to eat any of that fruit. Sure, you didn’t get sick from it, but could you have? Has it built up some sort of toxicity in your body that will surely emerge at some point later on? There are a ton of horror stories online that you can find if you just look them up – so what is the deal? Is it safe to eat fruit from trees that are just out in the open? Let’s take a look:

You May Want To Use Common Sense

Soursop fruit
Credit: Tatters
  • Look at the environment
  • Make sure the fruit looks safe to eat
  • Don’t eat food that has been sprayed by chemicals

The first thing you should do when thinking about eating fruit from a tree is look around and use your common sense- does it make sense that you would put this food in your body? While you may not know that a chemical is on fruit that is in the wild, you surely know that fruit trees near construction sites, busy roads, or power plants probably won’t be the best for you to eat.

Now, CityLab has found a study that shows it is probably safe to eat fruit from urban trees that are near roads that aren’t that busy (or those that don’t have heavy tractor-trailer traffic) as long as you wash them properly. It may also be a good idea to skin those fruits so that you aren’t eating what may have come into direct contact with any toxins.

If you feel sick after eating something from a tree, make sure to monitor any signs that might signal you need medical attention.

Know If The Fruit Is Ripe

apple tree
Credit: Anne Arnould
  • Many people don’t know when the fruit is actually ready
  • Some fruit can make you sick if it isn’t ripe – or is overripe
  • Some fruits can hang longer than others

Knowing if the fruit is ripe is a good skill to have if you grow fruit trees or you like to pick your own fruit. In general, you want to “Pick fruit as it ripens. Test the fruit by looking at its color, how big the fruit is and by taste. The fruit usually all ripens within a two- to three-week period. Once ripe, most fruit won’t get any sweeter. Peaches picked while still hard but blush-colored, will soften off the tree but won’t sweeten,” according to Home Guides.

In general, certain fruits will go bad faster than others. If you can eat the skin of the fruit, it is much more likely to go bad than something that you have to peel, like an orange or a lemon. However, that doesn’t mean that the fruit won’t get eaten by something else. Birds, squirrels, and pesky neighborhood kids are likely to grab berries, apples, and other sweet fruits to eat on their own. There isn’t much you can do about this but remain vigilant and get fruit as soon as you can.

You may also want to pick fruit if there is a cold spelling coming.

Don’t Worry About Soil

berry bush
Credit: Emilian Vicol
  • Pollutants tend to stay where they are
  • Wash your hands
  • You can spread pollutants, to wash your fruit too

If you live in an area where there have been pollutants in the soil, you might worry about eating the fruit that you get. Or, if you are going to pick your own fruit, you might worry that you cannot test the soil levels. Whatever your worry is, research has shown that you really don’t have to worry about it at all – apart from what we mentioned in the first point. Whatever is in the soil probably won’t end up impacting the actual fruit that you eat.

According to Grist, “Luckily for us fruit lovers, though, contaminants tend to stay where they are — in the soil. Most trees don’t accumulate pollutants, and even if they do, the problem is in the roots, not the fruits. The largest risks associated with urban produce comes from ingesting soil from your hands (or from your tools or shoes to your hands), not from eating the produce itself.”

Simply put, make sure that you clean up the fruit you eat, you clean your tools, and you clean your hands.

Know Which Fruits You Can Eat

fruit tree
Credit: Tatters
  • Don’t eat fruits you cannot identify
  • Start with smaller portions of “foreign” fruits
  • Talk to the owner of the tree if you are not it

There are some fruits that grow on trees that you want to avoid – particularly poisonous berries. Most poisonous berries or fruits are not fatal if ingested: they’ll just make you sick or taste very bad. Identifying the fruit is the first step to ensuring that it is safe to eat, but it isn’t the only step, according to Tree Hugger. You also want to know how to eat that fruit (some fruits have a pit you can grind up and use in other ways, some stones have carcinogenic compounds) and maybe even when to eat it. While you can eat fruit that isn’t ripe in most cases, some can make you sick, like the lychee or the starfruit.

At Portland Tree Service, we can help you with all of your tree care needs – and we will bring our own tools. We can help you throughout all the parts of the tree care life cycle, from planting new trees to taking down older ones. This even includes helping you to safely move trees. For more information about our services, give us a call today at (503) 941-0922.

Header photo courtesy of Marco Verch on Flickr!