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“There’s something about agriculture that gets into your reptile brain,” says the actor Bill Pullman. It first entered his in 1985 when, on a visit to Los Angeles, he encountered a tree heavy with oranges in the middle of someone’s tidy front yard. He couldn’t resist plucking one. “It was warm from the sun,” he recalls. “The sugar content was amazing.” But as he stood there, on the verge of another bite, he heard a window whoosh open, and an angry voice shooed him off the lawn. Ever since that epiphany—that “zing,” as he puts it—Pullman has been obsessed with fruit: growing it, eating it and sharing it with neighbors. These days, he and his wife, Tamara Hurwitz Pullman, have a home orchard where they love to host what he calls “old-fashioned threshing parties,” with friends and family pitching in to harvest and preserve—and taste—whatever’s in season.
For Pullman, who will headline the new NBC sitcom 1600 Penn this fall, fruit is not just an eccentric diversion. With an acre of mostly exotic trees in his backyard and a thriving nonprofit called Hollywood Orchard (hollywoodorchard.org), which harvests fruit from neighborhood trees for use by local food banks, Pullman’s obsession might constitute a second career.
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Before moving to Los Angeles, Pullman had read up on sustainable agriculture and was determined to find a “south-facing solar catchment” someplace on a hillside, where he could construct terraces—an ancient Incan technique for maximizing scarce water resources. Serendipitously, the plot he and Tamara found, in Beachwood Canyon, was already home to a white sapote, three Marsh grapefruit and (zing!) five orange trees. Over the last 20 years, Pullman has been adding to his orchard, acquiring rare berries and stone fruits the way other movie stars collect Italian sports cars. He now maintains more than 40 different species: kumquats and loquats, Persian mulberries and persimmons, jujubes and jaboticabas (a grapelike import from Brazil).