The Fruitful City by Helena Moncrieff, ECW Press

The Fruitful City: The Enduring Power of the Urban Food Forest

Moncrieff, Helena

  • Winner of the 2019 Heritage Toronto Book Award

    Shortlisted for the 2019 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize

    “Moncrieff eloquently reminds readers of the bounty and beauty that surround them.” —Publishers Weekly

    Our cities are places of food polarities — food deserts and farmers’ markets, hunger and food waste, fast food delivery and urban gardening. While locavores and preserving pros abound, many of us can’t identify the fruit trees in our yards or declare a berry safe to eat. Those plants — and the people who planted them — are often forgotten.

    In The Fruitful City, Helena Moncrieff examines our relationship with food through the fruit trees that dot city streets and yards. She tracks the origins of these living heirlooms and questions how they went from being subsistence staples to raccoon fodder. But in some cities, previously forgotten fruit is now in high demand, and Moncrieff investigates the surge of non-profit urban harvest organizations that try to prevent that food from rotting on concrete and meets the people putting rescued fruit to good use.

    As she travels across Canada, slipping into backyards, visiting community orchards, and taking in canning competitions, Moncrieff discovers that attitudinal changes are more important than agricultural ones. While the bounty of apples is great, reconnecting with nature and our community is the real prize.


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  • Helena Moncrieff is a writer, professor, former radio journalist, and lifelong city dweller. Her writing has appeared in Best Health magazine, the Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail and many in-house publications. Her freezer is full of fruit collected from other people’s backyards. She lives in Toronto.

  • Published: April 2018

    ISBN: 9781770413535

    Dimensions: 5 x 8 in.

    Pages: 224

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“Moncrieff eloquently reminds readers of the bounty and beauty that surround them.” — Publishers Weekly (online)

The Fruitful City takes us on a walk into Toronto’s secret orchards and gardens and discovers a city of food. Moncrieff introduces us to people who take care of the urban bounty today and shows how the community connections growing food fosters can help create a more resilient urban future in Toronto and beyond.” — Shawn Micallef, author of Frontier City: Toronto on the Verge of Greatness and The Trouble With Brunch: Work, Class and the Pursuit of Leisure

“This inventive investigation into the urban fruit tree surprises and delights as much as it educates, all while having an accessible and entertaining conversation with the reader.” — Local Love

“Moncrieff's tales are heartwarming and vibrant snapshots of lovable characters, told in a captivating and unique style of prose, reminiscent of Wade Davis' work, yet joyfully unique . . . Moncrieff takes us on a journey to a world right outside our door that most of us never knew existed, yet any who read the book will find was well worth the walk.” — Spacing

“What a lovely reminder that cities are agricultural landscapes! These stories are rich evidence of the delicious connection that is available to us when we lift our eyes and look out to our yards and parks for nourishment. Helena's encouragement to trust and indulge in the urban harvest is an inspiring narrative that broadens our understanding of the local food movement.” — Joshna Maharaj, chef, writer and activist

“Gardening can be a powerful way to build community. Moncrieff’s stories show how urban fruit growing and picking is often as much about community as it is about the fruit itself.” — Farm, Food, Garden newsletter

“Moncrieff is a lively and engaging writer, so even if you're not as passionate as we are about fruit trees, local food and food security, it's a great read about an important issue.” — Raise the Hammer

“Beautifully written.” — Toronto Star