This article was originally published in 2015.
Did you know that there are dozens of edible fruit trees planted throughout the University of Pennsylvania campus? POP and UPenn’s Facilities and Real Estate Services (FRES) collaborated for a second season to harvest from some of these underutilized trees, educating many passersby in the process.
POP has been partnering with various grassroots groups, organizations, and institutions throughout the city to design, plant, and educate around 50 biodiverse community orchards since 2007. In 2014, it expanded its programming to include POPHarvest, a fruit gleaning initiative, with UPenn as its first collaborator. Since, POPHarvest has expanded to include harvests from various street trees, “weed” trees, residential backyard trees, abandoned or neglected regional orchards, and fruit-bearing trees at our partner sites which are located outside of POP-planted community orchards.
On June 4th, about 20 people participated in a Juneberry gleaning (Amelanchier spp.) at UPenn as part of a week of gleanings at other POP orchard sites in Francisville and Fairhill. A total of 30lbs of juneberries were harvested for POP use, plus whatever everyone took home for their own kitchen experiments. West Philly’s Spruce Hill Preserves processed 20lbs of berries into jelly and donated it POP fundraising, and 10lbs went towards juneberry culinary experiments and syrups at new member-cooperative W/N W/N Coffee Bar, a business that POP has partnered with several times in 2015.
On September 29th, about 15 people got together for a UPenn Crabapple gleaning (Malus spp.) across from St. Mary’s Church on Locust Walk. Participants came from various sections of Philadelphia and South Jersey, but happily, most of them were UPenn students, faculty, and staff! The most abundant trees were just next to the UPenn student community garden, and participants were lucky enough to also glean excess lemon balm that had escaped the garden beds. Participants took home whatever they could harvest to process into jams, jellies, crisps, and other preserves, and approximately 15 pounds of crabapples were again taken to Spruce Hill Preserves for processing and POP fundraising.
It’s really educational to harvest from the same trees in multiple years and observe their changes. In 2014, the juneberry trees at UPenn were full of fruits, whereas this season, their yields were much less impressive (though Francisville and Fair Hill’s yields were explosive). Last year, POP noted a certain variety of juniper rust, a fungus, creeping into the UPenn trees, which may have had an effect, in addition to the very dry spring months in April and May 2015.
The exact opposite was true of the crabapples, which were overburdened with big, delicious fruits this season–larger than those in memory from 2014, despite the months-long drought the city experienced. The same was true of most apple tree yields seen all over the region.
Some other fruits and nuts POPHarvest has organized around are ginkgos, wineberries, persimmons, apples, Asian pears, hawthorns, and mulberries, with more varieties to come each season!
Want to get involved in future POPHarvest gleaning events to learn about new fruits and nuts, harvest for culinary experiments, meet new people, assist in harvesting donations for local food banks, share ideas for harvest locations, and contribute to POP fundraising efforts with local food businesses? Sign up for our volunteer events listserv at https://www.phillyorchards.org/volunteer/signup, request to join the POPHarvest Google Group at https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/popharvest, or email Robyn Mello, POP’s Program Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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