It’s the second week of May. The sun is not overbearing and the clouds cast shade to aid the wind’s mild breeze.
Casual trees with leaves indicative of
the rosaceae stand in a row along the busy street that borders my home. No sidewalks exist along this street, just dirt paths impacted into rugged grass. It’s early in the day, and I’m looking for breakfast before I start the day writing, volunteering, and looking for employment. I enter the UNCC campus and come across a petite tree, with a body like a crepe myrtle. I don’t recognize this tree or the species this tree belongs to. My eyes wander to the squirrel sitting in the tree. She’s nibbling on a small magenta pome. I sit on the grassy patch in a small grove, watching her eat. Robins and mockingbirds are also present, but only a male robin comes to the tree and takes a fruit. From what tree could they possibly be eating? I initially think hawthorn, but the leaves have no toothed edges.
The squirrel knows I’m staring at her. She pauses, holding a fruit in her mouth, and looks in my direction. By now, the birds are on the other end of the grove. No longer hesitating, she climbs down the tree and leaps away, walking along the sidewalk between two buildings into a grove across the way. I decide not to follow her but proceed toward the mysterious tree. Many of the pomes dangle from the tree like crystals on a chandelier. The majority of them are magenta and pinkish red, but some have tough kiwi skins with yellow dull spikes. I pick a pinkish red pome from the tree and without hesitation pressed the fruit between my lips and ingested. The fruit tasted like sweet rose buds with minor tart. The taste left behind an impression of perfume in my mouth. I had never tasted any fruit like that in my life, and I learned it was edible from a squirrel.
After my day’s work, I returned home, the taste of the pomes still on my mind, and felt eager to research the species whose tree I ate from. Pink/red pomes on small tree perhaps shrub. I found nothing. Three days later, I think maybe a bradford pear? But after visiting the tree again, neither the fruits nor the tree looks like a bradford pear (this tree’s leaves are slimmer and don’t curve like a pear; additionally, the fruits aren’t brownish green). This time, I am truly stumped. I have no idea the name of the tree from whom I ate.
Returning to the tree ten days later, the fruits are tough and covered in thick yellow spikes. I realize how lucky I was to observe the squirrel when I did. And this time, nobody was eating those fruits. Massaging one
between my fingers, I can imagine why. This leads me to conclude that the fruits are only edible within a two-week window period at the beginning of the summer (more specifically, the beginning of May).
Rather than obtaining knowledge about what to eat from tradition, folk history, and science, I learned through watching a fellow mammal find food in the city. And one of the greatest teachers you’ll meet who can find all kinds of food in the city is a squirrel. So, I don’t feel worried at all that I don’t know the given name of the tree from whom I ate. The tree was likely in the rosaceae family, but when I likely meet her acquaintance again, I would feel as though I know more about her individually than I could grasp from a textbook or field guide.