To pick or not to pick? That is the question that sparked one of the fiercest debates across the Southland in recent weeks. LA Times features writer Jeannette Marantos asked readers a simple question: when is it OK to pick someone else's fruit trees? More than 800 people weighed in. Marantos joined Lisa McRee on "LA Times Today" with more. 

Marantos was inspired to write about fruit trees after she saw a woman pick nectarines off the tree in her front yard. Marantos' tree is accessible from the sidewalk, but she said she was "taken aback" and wanted to hear what others thought.

"The law says that if a tree trunk is in my yard, I own that tree. Even if it's hanging into your yard or into the public street. I own that tree and I own whatever is on the tree. So technically, it's petty theft if you were to reach in and take some of that fruit. But as one attorney I spoke to said, it's not likely you're going to get a lot of prosecutors to weigh in on this. They'd rather, I'm sure, run in the other direction than get involved," Marantos said. 

Marantos discussed what Times readers think about the issue, including the 19% of respondents who said it is never acceptable to pick someone else's fruit. 

"Fifty percent of our respondents said they wouldn't have a problem with picking fruit if they're accessible as they're walking along. That wasn't a problem for them," she said. "Sixty percent of the people said if the fruit fell off the tree, if it was in a gutter or a sidewalk, they would not have a problem with picking it up. But there was a lot more hesitation if it was actually on someone's property. I think the rule was, if I can stand on a sidewalk and not touch your property, then I could take the fruit."

Marantos talked about the etiquette of picking fruit. 

"Several people said, why not go and ask the people? Because a lot of times people haven't picked their fruit because maybe they can't. Maybe they have a physical problem, or they're elderly. And they said to go and knock on the door and offer to pick the fruit and ask if you can take some for yourself. So it wouldn't be just you taking the fruit away but sharing with somebody else," Marantos explained. 

For people with trees teeming with too much fruit to eat, Marantos said, there are organizations that can take excess fruit and give it to those in need.

"One of the biggest ones that do this is Fruit Forward... They don't want their volunteers on ladders, but they will come pick the fruit. And then, as much as they can get with their picker sticks, they donate it to local food banks who don't often get fresh fruit. So this is a really good way to make sure that some good comes out of your fruit without having it all go to waste on the ground," Marantos said.

Watch the full interview above.

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