Did you know that SMCC’s South Portland Campus is full of wild-growing edible plants? There’s ample foraging here. However, there are some safety concerns you should be aware of before you make campus flora a major part of your seasonal diet. This piece will first describe a variety of wild foods the author has enjoyed on campus, and then, rather awkwardly, tack on a health warning that he is still digesting. It is hoped that the reader will at least come away with more information about a little-known world at SMCC students’ fingertips.
You’re probably seen the wild apples. They’re the most high-profile wild food. Perhaps the most well-known of the campus apple trees is not, strictly speaking, on campus; it’s the one on Benjamin W. Pickett Street, just past the smokers’ corner. Every student who has parked or walked under it at this time of year knows how prolific it is: you can hardly traverse the sidewalk without squishing its fruit. Fewer know just how tasty these apples are. They’re at least as sweet as your average store-bought Macintosh, and not any tougher.
You can’t beat the Pickett Street tree for flavor or volume, but it’s by no means the only option. The author also recommends a tree just off the paved shoreway path behind the Computer Science and Engineering Center (CSEC), whose greener fruit is reminiscent of Granny Smith, and several trees near the CSEC parking lot. There are also several small cultivated apple trees between the Horticulture Building and the Baykeeper Building (which is owned by the Friends of Casco Bay). Horticulture department chair Cheryl Rich told the author these trees are all free for the picking.
One day while the author was photographing the trees near CSEC, he saw a man and a young girl picking up drop apples. They had a large wicker basket. The man shook the tree while the child, who looked to be about four, picked up and inspected individual apples with curiosity, occasionally plunking one in the basket when the mood struck.