Plant this: A pit

Pop quiz: What costs more than a quarter mil, required a carbon shoe store to ship via flat-bed truck to Redding and conjures up images of thrown-up box stores in Any Town Generica, Calif.? If you answered Redding’s Hilltop Drive “beautification” project, you win a congested trek down the motel, chain restaurant and strip mall hell corridor.

Took a walk among the 51, 20-foot date palms, now seated along the welcome-to-Redding I-5 retail artery

to north state coffers. I wanted to see these southern California transplants up close and personal.

While I’ll admit the drive was indeed in need of a makeover, I have to question a $5.1 million outlay according to the Record Searchlight, crafted in Chia Pet style. I mean, $6,000 a tree?

A thought crossed my mind as the boyfriend and I walked under and around the trees, which will cast a thimbleful of shade on a 115 degree day: Why?

Why, with all of the choices that abound, do cities almost always opt for ornamental, leafy and nonfunctional botanicals?

Why, with fuel, food and finances in a state of crisis in the U.S., don’t cities – hello, Redding – plant fruit trees, berry bushes and other edibles in public spaces? And then mobilize community organizations to pick and distribute the bounty to the needy.

A recent story in the New York Times chronicled the backyard bounty that North Berkeley Harvest reaps, and distributes, from local neighborhoods. It’s the proverbial win-win situation: Homeowners, with trees ready for picking, get out of the chore. And volunteers pluck the fruit, most of which is pesticide free, and feed the hungry.

Backyardharvest.org has organized communities in Paso Robles and Santa Barbara. But imagine a community that embraced healthy eating, a healthy lifestyle and a healthy landscape.

Rather than forking over $6,000 for a palm, how about planting a – free – peach tree pit, like the one here, snagged from an “Indian” peach. The grower at Chico’s Farmers Market, who sold me the juicy peaches, told me a planted seed (how she grew her orchard) would bear fruit within two or three years. And one mature peach tree can produce some 50 to 80 pounds of fruit.

Or, we can marvel at our $6,000-a-tree beautification project, and the hungry and homeless, who will congregate with crumpled “hungry” signs, and search for that thimbleful of shade.

-Christy

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