Health Benefits of Orchard Fruits

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As you might already know, POP’s community orchards are beneficial in a number of ways, providing:

  • Beautiful neighborhood green spaces that provide opportunities for community gathering and engagement;
  • A wide range of environmental benefits including providing pollinator habitats, sequestering carbon, and reducing stormwater runoff;
  • Opportunities for micro-enterprise and hands-on food system and nature education;
  • A bounty of fruit, herbs, and perennial vegetables for communities to harvest from and enjoy,
  • And, lastly, the incredible health benefits that come from orchard fruits themselves — nutritionally and medicinally! 

Read on to learn about 5 key orchard plants that provide incredible health benefits for caretakers and harvesters all throughout the city! Please also read our edible plants disclaimer at the end of the article before consuming any parts of the fruits or plants described below.

Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) 

The fruit of chokeberries or aronia are known for their high levels of antioxidents!

Native to the eastern United States, black chokeberries (or Aronia berries, as they’re sometimes called) are astringent, dark-purple fruits that grow on a compact 3 to 5 ft tall and wide, cold-hardy shrub. Belonging to the rose or Rosaceae family, this shrub grows well in full sun to partial shade in most well-drained soils, is drought tolerant, and ready to harvest in July and August, sometimes as late as September. The shrub produces brilliant red foliage in the fall and has few pest and disease issues. Learn more about this incredible shrub, here.

Nutritional benefits: 

Chokeberries pack an incredible nutritive and medicinal punch – possessing the highest level of antioxidants among any temperate fruit species! Additionally, the phenolic (anthocyanin) compounds in the fruit contains anti-inflammatory,  blood thinning properties, as well as acting as an anxiolytic (helpful for reducing anxiety) and as a liver protectant. Chokeberries are astringent directly off the bush, so generally processed before eating. To enjoy, consider making a fresh juice from the fruits, incorporating them into smoothies, or baked goods, or making a medicinal syrup. 

Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) 

Blueberries are delicious but also full of vitamins and anthocyanins!

The highbush blueberry, which comes from the heath or Ericaceae family, are deciduous, bush-grown, round blue fruits with a sweet, seedy and lightly sour flavor profile. Blueberries are native to neighboring New Jersey, where the acidic soils from the pine-lands produce well-formed and flavored fruit.  In order to thrive in POP’s community orchards, blueberry shrubs require full sun or partial shade, well-draining and highly acidic soils with a soil pH between 4 and 5 and can reach up to 4-6 feet high and wide. Planting sites in more naturally alkaline soils are best amended with peat moss, sulfur, or pine-needle mulching. Blueberries ripen late July to mid-August; but beware! This well-loved fruit of birds may require some protective netting if you are anticipating plucking your own, fresh and sun-ripened! 

Nutritional Benefits: 

Blueberries are low-calorie, nutrient dense fruits that are high in fiber and rich in the chemical compound, anthocyanin, the deep blue and purple pigment found in many health-supporting fruits.  Blueberries are a rich source of vitamin C, K, B6, folate, potassium, copper, and manganese. Being rich in calcium, iron, and magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, and vitamin K, blueberries help improve bone health and elasticity of joints, muscle and arteries. The abundance of vitamin C in the fruit helps build collagen, helping to foster healthy skin and prevent oxidative DNA damage. The fruit also helps dissolve LDL cholesterol and helps strengthen cardiac muscles and reduce blood pressure. Enjoy blueberries fresh, out of hand, in your favorite fruit salad, cooked grain porridge, or as a juice, or jam! 

Elderberry (Sambucus spp)

Elderberries have strong medicinal value in supporting both the immune system and respiratory health.

Elderberries are native to much of Europe and parts of North America and produces deep purple drupe fruits in mid-July to early September. The musky sweet fruits of this hedgegrow shrub are best eaten after cooking, as the raw fruit contains a mild toxin that can cause digestive upset. Elderberries belong to the moschatel or Adoxaceae family, reach heights and width of 8 to 15 feet, and are extremely easy to care for — with their only true preference being that for full sun and well-draining soil. In their natural habitat, they grow along water banks and at the forest edges. Elderberries require little pruning, their pithy stems become fragile when dead and clip away easily at the base.

Nutritional Benefits: 

Elderberries are an incredible health tonic that’s become quite popular in folk and herbal medicine for their rich supply of anthocyanins — (notice a theme here with these dark-pigmented fruits?) which help to boost the body’s inherent immune system functioning and to prevent viruses from replicating in the body. Decoctions (hot water extraction of the fruit) has also been used to assisting in soothing upper respiratory infections, allergies, gastric upset, cystitis, bladder and urinary infections. Enjoy fully ripe elderberries processed into jellies, wines, or syrups. The berries freeze well, too, for long-term storage and later use! In addition to producing nutritionally powerful fruit, elderberries also produce edible, cream-white flowers in early spring that can be harvested away from their clusters for use in soothing teas that can help break fever and soothe away itchy, red rashes of the skin or eyes.

Peaches (Prunus persica) 

Did you know that both peach leaves and fruit have medicinal uses?

Like apples, pears, almonds, cherries, hawthorns, chokeberries and other common well-loved fruit, the sweet, juicy peach comes from the rose or Rosaceae family. Cultivated peach trees are generally maintained at 15 to 20 feet in height. These vigorous growers do best in medium (loamy) soils, and full sun in order to produce well-formed fruit.  This deciduous tree flowers in the month of April and should be pruned during or shortly after bloom. Fruits ripen when the flesh is tender to the touch in July or August. Learn more about the peach tree, here.

Nutritional Benefits: 

Peaches boast a number of health benefits being high in vitamin C (one fruit contains up to 15% of the daily recommended value of vitamin C), vision-supporting beta-carotene, fiber, and vitamin E. As such, the fruit can help with bladder, lung, stomach, and bowel issues.  Additionally, this fruit is said to improve irritability, agitation, upset stomach, nausea, anxiety, restlessness, and morning sickness. Cold infusions of the chopped green leaves are also an incredible folk tonic for soothing a sour stomach and soothing the nervous system. Topically, the leaf and fruit has been used to lessen insect stings and sun or heat burns.  Whether you eat them fresh out of hand with the juices dripping down your arm, or baked into a pie, jam, or cobbler, peaches will have you feeling peachy keen!

Apple (Malus spp.) 

The association of apples with good health is supported by a wide range of nutritional and medicinal value.

Apples have a reputation for being one of the healthiest fruits — a rich source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Originating in central Asia, apple trees are now cultivated globally. Depending on the rootstock, they can grow to be anywhere from 6-10 ft tall and wide on a dwarf rootstock, 10-18 ft tall and wide on a semi-dwarf rootstock, and 18-25 ft tall and wide on a standard rootstock. This deciduous tree belongs to the rose or Rosaceae family, like some of the other fruits in this round-up; it generally flowers in April and ripens late August to October depending on the variety. Apples and can survive in a variety of climates, however full sun is best for apple production. Learn more about apples, here.

Nutritional Benefits:  

A 2006 study published in the Journal Experimental Biology & Medicine found that quercetin, one of the antioxidants fond abundantly in apples, was one of the two compounds that helped reduce cellular death caused by oxidation and neurological inflammation. That journal also found that juice from apples may increase neurotransmitter acetylcholine, responsible for memory. In addition to those incredible findings, the fruit has also been found to be high fiber, vitamin C, B-complex vitamins, minerals calcium, potassium, and phosphorous, pectin as well as malic acid, which help with digestion and kidney stone prevention. The flesh of the fruit is also said to help whiten teeth.  The leaves of this fruit contain anti-bacterial phloretin, which is found to aid in inhibiting E.coli, Staph, and lessen colon inflammation. Apples can be enjoyed raw, cooked, baked into pies, cobblers, cakes, jammed, and buttered, pressed into cider, or fermented into hard cider. The possibilities are limitless!


So, next time you’re in an orchard, consider this useful knowledge, and enjoy the many health benefits of these delicious fruits!


The Philadelphia Orchard Project stresses that you should not consume parts of any edible plants, herbs, weeds, trees,​ or bushes until you have verified with your health professional that they are safe for you. As with any new foods that you wish to try, it is best to introduce them slowly into your diet in small amounts.

The information presented on this website is for informational, reference, and educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as a substitute for diagnosis and treatment by a health care professional. Always consult a health care professional or medical doctor when suffering from any health ailment, disease, illness, or injury, or before attempting any traditional or folk remedies. Keep all plants away from children. As with any natural product, they can be toxic if misused.

To the best of our knowledge,​ the information contained herein is accurate and we have endeavored to provide sources for any borrowed​ material. Any testimonials on this web site are based on individual results and do not constitute a warranty of safety or guarantee that you will achieve the same results.

Neither the Philadelphia Orchard Project nor its employees, volunteers, or website contributors may be held liable or responsible for any allergy, illness,​ or injurious effect that any person or animal may suffer as a result of reliance on the information contained on this website nor as a result of the ingestion or use of any of the plants mentioned ​herein.


POPCORE:3 – Plants, Fungi, and What To Do With Them

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This POP Blog Post was drafted by Development Assistant Natalie Agoos with content contribution from POP Education Director Alyssa Schimmel.  

SUPPORT US!  If you found this entry useful, informative, or inspiring, please consider a donation of any size to help POP in planting and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia:


Orchard Partner Stories: a look back at 2018

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Every year we ask our orchard partners to reflect on the season and to share stories with us about what the orchard provides for their community. Below are some of our favorite excerpts from 2018 celebrating the beauty, abundance, and power of city orchards to serve as an engaging place of discovery and connection.

Community youth harvesting apricots at the Norris Square Neighborhood Project orchard this spring.

Norris Square Neighborhood Project

This spring we had a fruit harvesting day with our Garden Kids program, an informal weekly program for neighborhood children ages 4-12. With berry baskets and a fruit picker donated by POP, 10 youth harvested service berries, mulberries, strawberries and apricots. The young people loved using the fruit picker to try and get the best apricots from the tree. Many of them hadn’t eaten these fruit or picked them fresh before. It was a sweet, lovely day!

— Marian Dalke

Richard Allen Prep Charter School

Students LOVE the fig trees! It is really beautiful to see the joy, empowerment, and team work the fig trees on site bring out in the students. Kids worked together to scout and harvest them, encouraged each other to taste, and spread the word throughout the school that figs were “lit.” Even hesitant tasters became fig advocates to others in the school. Those trees were the first plants they ran to in the garden and in their shade the bonds of community – shared nourishment, flourishing and fun – were reinforced.

Jenny Dunker

Sankofa Community Farm @ Bartram’s Garden

Youth from all over the local neighborhood know of the orchard and we often overhear them saying that they are going to head down later…(after the farmers are gone) to get their apples, pears, etc.  Although we are trying to limit the amount of picking without permission, we like when kids eat fruit from the trees. We have often used these teachable moments to talk about when food is ripe and to think about others when picking to ensure all can taste and try.

— Tyler Holmberg

Students and volunteers planting a spiral herb garden at Cramp Elementary School in North Philly this year.

FNC Learning Farm @ 8th & Poplar

We have three cherry trees that give us a TON of fruit. During the growing season, I have random neighborhood kids who will come after school and help me at the farm, or play in the garden, and those kids come during cherry season and spend afternoons climbing the tree and gorging themselves on fresh cherries. 

— Marta Lynch

One Art

This year we finally got figs! After years of watching and waiting, our patience finally paid off. We are reminded that we plant these trees not knowing if we will taste the harvest but having hope that someone will enjoy their fruits.

— Malaika Gilpin

Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House- Erie

Krishanta, a 10 year old patient from Trinidad, and her mom Kizzie have been staying with us for a long time (over 7 months).  Krishanta uses wheelchairs and other mobility devices but it didn’t stop her from being our garden elf. She loves strawberries and it became her job to harvest the berries for us when needed. And then she took on the raspberries when they came in season.  Soon she was helping volunteer groups with weeding and tending the orchard and garden. She asked if we could plant peppers and more cilantro so we did! In fact, we planted a salsa garden (tomatoes, jalapenos, cilantro) in with the herbs. I was lucky enough to spend some time with her in the garden  I would let her smell the different herbs and explain their uses. Together we would harvest the herbs to put in the kitchen for other families and our guest chefs to use.  

-Carolann Costa

Krishanta was one of many this year to appreciate the bounty of orchard plantings at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House @ Erie.

Wyck Historic House

POP is willing, able and enthusiastic about interfacing with any single segment of Wyck’s constituents–whether corporate volunteer groups during our planting events, or high school job trainees during maintenance events, or behind the scenes with me, essentially empowering me to be informed and knowledgeable enough to train others and truly pay the orchard concept forward. They are a remarkable and generous and truly collaborative organization.

— Martha Keen

Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission Farm

Overcomer Eric from the recovery program is one of the dedicated volunteers for our farm/orchard. We have been able to help him to gain more interest in farming, growing and harvesting fruits. Now he makes sure the farm is doing fine even when we are not there working. His favorite fruit is the figs that he picked himself from our tree.

 Meei Ling Ng

St. Bernard Community Garden

Many gardeners expressed in one way or another that our orchard — particularly our raspberries, which persisted well into fall — enhanced their experience of being in the garden this year: through the joy of having fresh-picked fruit to snack on during work days, or providing a rewarding activity for kids in harvesting fruit during their visits, or simply through enjoying the beauty of our young orchard plants and food forest throughout the season.

 TJ Hunt

The Casa del Carmen orchard in North Philly demonstrated multi-generational involvement this year, including a spring strawberry planting with youth.

Casa del Carmen

Casa del Carmen values our neighbors in Hunting Park and applauds the older adults that volunteer to care for the orchard. One senior in particular, a Puerto Rican Evacuee whose home and garden was washed away during Hurricane Maria, visits daily to ensure the health of the orchard. He says that tending the garden is recreational and keeps him active and healthy.

— Camille Crane

Hunting Park Community Garden

During this past summer we were hosting the Lenfest Center’s summer camp garden club. On their first visit to work in their plot, most seemed excited to be at the garden. Ten minutes into their visit one camper wanted to go back to the center which is a 15 to 20 minute walk out of the park. She was not a fan of the bugs and heat that particular day but we were able to convince her to stay and not make the group leave. We adjusted the order of activities and decided to go first to taste the fruit in the orchard. She was very excited and wanted to take some home to have her grandmother bake a pie. Her next visit there was no hesitation to join in the scavenger hunt with the group.

— Michael Wilcox

Philadelphia Montessori Charter School

Each day our students roam the garden discovering insects, birds, and an occasional fruit. Our orchard is still young and doesn’t produce much yet, but the trees provide shade and for the first time we found Eastern Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars in the garden. We are beginning to develop an ecosystem.

 Letitia C Biddle

Pentridge Children’s Garden

The orchard is generally the highlight of the garden for the children who visit. Whether it is excitement at finding the sweetest apples, or getting lost in the raspberry bushes, the kids love it.

— Owen Taylor

Planting day with volunteers at the Union Baptist Church Garden of Eden in South Philly.

Union Baptist Church Garden of Eden

We planted fruit trees and berry plants with POP this year. Our raspberry plants already have been producing large juicy berries. We have been harvesting the berries to share with our soup kitchen guests, church members, garden volunteers and neighbors. Some of the raspberry plants have grown out of the fence and people walking by pick the fruits. Some are worried about people picking them outside but our answer is “why not, that is the point of sharing and tasting the fruits we have grown”. One time a mother with kids walked by and were admiring the berries from the outside.  We asked them to come in and gave them a tour and shared the berries. If we are near the plants, we will pick the berries and pass them over the fence for people who are curious about the fruits and our orchard. The orchard connected us to our community in many ways. Thank you POP for all you do and for our wonderful collaboration.

— Meei Ling Ng

Penn Alexander

Our orchard provides beauty and educational opportunities for our school community. We love spending time outdoors learning from nature!

— Stephanie Kearney

Overbrook School for the Blind

Our school orchard provides beauty, a space for learning, and a source for nutritious food that is utilized by students and staff alike.  I think POP has been nothing but exceptional in providing sensory based lessons for students with visual impairment and multiple disabilities that incorporate tactual objects and promote student engagement.”

-Lee Stough

POP developed a series of sensory-based lesson plans this year in partnership with the Overbrook School for the Blind.

Weavers Way Farms- Mort Brooks & Henry Got Crops

We had a particularly good paw paw season. There were so many staff, volunteers and customers who had never had one before and were just floored by the taste. This is the second season we have had paw paws to sell at our farm market and people were already contacting up in the spring asking us when they could come and purchase them again this year. I have witnessed first hand the impact this one fruit has had on our immediate community, and it is creating quite the following of excited fans!

— Nina Berryman 

Pastorius Community Garden

This year our trees were still establishing and did not yet give fruit. It was a pleasure taking care of them throughout the season. Our berry bushes were the stars and produced a huge harvest. Our orchard is opened to the public, and the berries went super quick this year as and more people have discovered our little orchard in their neighborhood and feel comfortable harvesting.

— Vita Litvak


The abundant harvest of our cherry trees is a highlight of the year. Youth experience harvesting large amounts, process some into jam, and provide these things to a community that eagerly awaits.

Michael Muehlbauer 

Fairmount Park Horticulture Center Food Forest

This space has been especially valuable to the Master Gardener program for educational and volunteer opportunities.

— Michelle Lawson

A wide range of volunteer groups assisted in caring for the food forest at the Fairmount Park Horticulture Center this year.

Kleinlife Community Center 

In the orchards third year, it appears to have matured in the last season — the space looks a little fuller, not quite producing fruits yet, but the trees are filling in more. Peaches were harvested this year, the persimmon trees look like they’ll resemble the tall bountiful neighborhood persimmon trees, which is exciting to me, because I want our NE neighbors to recognize that just like many of them devote their tiny lawns/yards to growing food vertically or with fruit trees, that we also see the value of using our space for food and fruit production. We are transforming our campus into an edible landscape, and the children are recognizing it and asking questions, which is all I could ask for.

— John Eskate

Jewish Farm School Garden

This year we had a rough season with our fig tree (especially compared to last season). A neighbor of ours stopped by to check in about the state of the fig tree. He shared that when he was growing up on the block, there were a ton of fruit trees lining the street. It was nice to hear how this orchard is a continuation of a history that is still alive for people.

— Nati Passow

Cloud 9 @ Guild House West

Our residents saw a lot of changes this year. But, having the orchard remain has meant a great deal to our long-time residents, especially those whose windows look out over the trees.

— Rania Campbell-Bussiere

Historic Fair Hill

Several neighbors stop by to ask when the figs and cherries will be ripe and if they can help with them. They love to know that these fruits grown in their neighborhood!

— Jean Warrington

SUPPORT US!  If you found this entry useful, informative, or inspiring, please consider a donation of any size to help POP in planting and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia:

DIY Holiday Gift Ideas: Herbal Sachets, Closet Hanger Wreaths, Apple Pomanders

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DIY Holiday Gift Ideas


Stop right there!  Before you run out to the store this holiday season, consider utilizing the resources you have around you.  DIY gifts are not only thoughtful and well received, but also an enjoyable and creative process!


DIY: abbreviation for do-it-yourself: the activity of decorating or repairing your home, or making things yourself, rather than paying someone else to do it for you.

The pro’s of DIY:

  • Recycle old materials
  • Make use of household items you rarely use
  • Fulfill your creative side
  • A thoughtful gift
  • Save money while helping the environment
  • Crafting is relaxing!

Find POP DIY inspiration below!

Herbal Sachets


Herbal Sachets provide a pleasant and personalized smell in a easy and aesthetically pleasing way.  Herbs make great companion plantings for fruit trees and are planted in every POP community orchard! 

What you need:

  • breathable cloth
  • your favorite (smelling) herbs
  • ribbon/twine/string


  1. Whether you buy pre-made sachet bags, or sew them using your breathable cloth, the size is completely up to you.  For those without sewing skills, herbal sachets can be as simple as a square of fabric tied at the top with twine
  2.  Once you have your bag, it is time to collect fresh or dried herbs.  For mint-family plants, harvest by making a small cut with scissors or hand-pruners along the stem above the point where two new leaves emerge. If you choose to fill your sachet with fresh herbs, make sure your fabric is breathable (a good cotton or muslin mix). If you over-stuff your bag, you could develop mildew or mold.  To dry herbs before filling your sachet, strip flowers and leaves from their stems and place in a paper bag to dry into crispy, then fill your sachet!  Some common orchard and garden herbs for use with sachets:
  • Mints (calming, soothing)
  • Lemon Balm (reduces stress)
  • Lavender (aromatherapy)
  • Rosemary (rich in antioxidants)
  • Thyme (antibacterial, insecticidal)
  • Anise Hyssop (digestive, improves stomach acid)

You can use one, or as many as you’d like! Put them in the bag, and close the bag with your ribbon/twine/string.

… And it is as easy as that! Transform your car smell, sock drawer smell, or the smell of just about any space with this simple and unique trick.  And of course, these are great gifts as well!

“Closet Hanger” Wreath


This wreath-making technique is easy and convenient to make!

What you need:

  • wire closet hanger
  • greenery
  • rope/thread/twine


  • First, take your wire hanger and stretch into as round of a circle as you can.


  • Next, gather the greens that you want to be on your wreath.  These can be bought from the store (or seasonal holiday sales at public gardens like POP partners Bartram’s Garden and Awbury Arboretum), cut from the bottom of your Christmas tree, or simply pruned from your own backyard!

  •  From here, take your first piece of greenery and place in one direction on the hanger.  Secure to wire with thread or twine.

  • Place your next piece of greenery slight on top of the last piece you secured to the hanger, so that the woody part of the greenery is not seen.  

  • Continue this until the hanger is completely covered in your greens.  Feel free to add pops of color with other plants, such as holly or hawthorn.
  • Finally, use the hanger at the top of your wreath to conveniently display your new creation anywhere.  Enjoy!

Apple Pomander

An apple pomander – aka a clove apple – is a wonderful present, because it works exactly the way that Laura Ingalls Wilder describes it: it smells wonderful, it won’t rot, and the stem provides the perfect place to tie a serviceable piece of twine or a fancy ribbon to hang your clove apple in a closet or hallway.”
-Julie Finn, Crafting A Green World

Most people think of citrus for use with pomanders, but apples are also traditional and were mentioned in the ever popular ‘Little House on the Prairie’ books!  Read in the article linked below how to make an Apple Pomander (from local fruit of course). Enjoy!

With these neat ideas in mind, have fun with your crafting and don’t be afraid to try something new!

This POP Blog post was written by 2018 POP Administrative Assistant Natalie Agoos. 

SUPPORT US!  If you found this entry useful, informative, or inspiring, please consider a donation of any size to help POP in planting and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia:

10th Annual East Park Apple Festival

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This year’s 10th annual East Park Apple Festival included a beautiful clear sky, perfect Fall weather, plenty of community involvement, and LOTS of apples.  The festival, which has been held at historic Woodford Mansion every October since 2009, is a collaboration between Woodford, the East Park Revitalization Alliance (EPRA), and the Philadelphia Orchard Project (POP). These partners first began to work together in 2008, when the Fairmount Park Commission (now Philadelphia Parks & Recreation) approved planting of the first fruit trees at Woodford.  Plantings now include dozens of fruit and nut trees, a berry garden, pollinator garden, and herb garden that help bring to life the history of the landscape while serving residents of today’s Strawberry Mansion neighborhood by providing fresh fruit and educational programming.

Pressing fresh apple cider has been a big hit at the East Park Apple Festival every year since 2009!

On October 20th, 2018, community members attending the Apple Festival enjoyed free food prepared by various volunteers, tours of the mansion and orchard, freshly pressed apple cider, a tasting of apple varieties, and various activities led by the partner organizations.

As guests arrived around noon, activities began.  POP set up its information table by the orchard, accompanied by volunteers and dozens of potted trees.  At this event, along with a several others during Philadelphia Orchard Week, POP provided those interested with a free fruit tree to take and plant at home through a grant from UPS and Keep America Beautiful.  Many fruit tree types were available, including Asian Pear, Peach, and Pawpaw! POP Executive Director Phil Forsyth later led a tour of the Woodford Orchard and neighborhood kids got to pick and eat some early ripening American Persimmons.

One of several Apple Fest attendees that went home with a free fruit tree to plant in their yard courtesy of POP and a grant from Keep America Beautiful and UPS.

Martha Moffat, who you could find helping out in every corner of the festival, is Site Manager of Woodford Mansion.  Ten years ago, Ms. Moffat recalls, when the first festival commenced, “it was cold and pouring rain. It wasn’t much fun, but we pushed forward and look, here we are ten years after, lots of big trees, people, the sun is shining.”  She could not be more proud and is thrilled to be a larger part of the community through their partnerships with EPRA and POP.

Near the entrance of the festival, you could find a beautiful red apple cider press, piles of apples, and EPRA staff and volunteers cranking away to make those apples into sweet, fresh cider.  Suku John, who is EPRA’s Executive Director and a master of the cider press, was happy to see such a great turnout this year. EPRA has been working as the primary stewards of the Woodford Orchard since its planting, with ongoing training and support from POP.  Dr. John reports that plans of further orchard expansion are to come with the help of a group called the Fair Amount Food Forest.

On this year’s tour of the Woodford community orchard, Apple Fest participants picked and tasted American persimmons right from the tree!  

Michael Muehlbauer and other volunteer members of the Fair Amount Food Forest collective also had a table set up at the festival and spent the day handing out information and receiving feedback from the community on possibilities to add new plantings and programs to the existing orchard space. They also provided activities for the kids and fresh herbal tea.  On top of providing information, activities, and tea, Mr. Muehlbauer was happy to be there, saying “the festival is a relaxed event with a wonderful vibe and great people.”

This years event came to a close just about when the apples did.  Honeycrisp was the decidedly “most popular” apple in the taste test, guests left with faces painted and stomachs full of all things apple, and the mansion and orchard received lots of welcome foot traffic.  Event partners Woodford Mansion, EPRA, POP, Fair Amount Food Forest, and community members all look forward to another 10 years of East Park Apple Festivals!

The apple variety taste test is always a popular part of the East Park Apple Festival!

This POP Blog post was written by 2018 POP Administrative Assistant Natalie Agoos with assistance from Executive Director Phil Forsyth. 

SUPPORT US!  If you found this entry useful, informative, or inspiring, please consider a donation of any size to help POP in planting and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia:

Check out more photos of this year’s East Park Apple Festival courtesy of WHYY: 

A rainy 2018 yielded soggy fall harvest, Philly growers say

PLANT SPOTLIGHT: Persimmon (Diospyros)

Posted on Categories Blog, Canning, Cooking & Preservation, Harvesting, Home, Orchard Care, Plant Profiles, Plants, POPharvests, Propagation, Recipes, Tree Care, Wild EdiblesTags , , , , , , ,

Asian persimmons ripening at Bartram’s Garden in West Philadelphia. Non-astringent varieties can be harvested while still firm.


Asian Persimmon (Diospyros kaki) is native to China, where it has been cultivated for centuries.  Korea and Japan have also been centers of its cultivation, and it was introduced to California in the mid 1800’s. Asian Persimmons usually grow between 13-20 ft tall and wide and are self-fertile.  At our community orchards, POP usually favors planting non-astringent cultivars such as ‘Fuyu’ and ‘Jiro’.

The native American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) is a much larger tree, growing 30-50 ft tall, but with smaller fruit. It is also more cold hardy.  Except for a few self-fertile varieties, American Persimmons require a separate male and female tree for pollination (only female trees bear fruit).  Due to limitations of space required, POP generally only plants native persimmons in larger park settings and favors self-fertile cultivars like ‘Meader’ and ‘Early Golden’.  There are also a few hybrid Asian/American persimmons varieties, including ‘Nikita’s Gift’.

Persimmons belong to the Ebenaceae botanical family, valued for its wood and fruits. Persimmons are usually propagated by grafting scionwood or buds to selected rootstock; seed stratification is also possible. Pollinators of this tree include wild bees, bumblebees, and honeybees.

Persimmons have proved one of the easiest fruits to grow in Philadelphia, with consistent harvests and few pest and disease challenges.


Persimmons are easy to grow with few ongoing care requirements. Asian Persimmons grow in hardiness zones 7-10 and do best in areas that have moderate winters and relatively mild summers. American Persimmons are hardier, adaptable to zones 5-9.

WINTER/SPRING: Late-winter pruning is helpful for shape and rejuvenation, with modified central leader being the most common form. In the spring, non-blooming persimmons may require an application of bonemeal to boost phosphorous.

SUMMER: Water young trees thoroughly once a week during their first year. Persimmons have few pest or disease problems in our region, thus requiring little other attention.

FALL: Persimmons are one of the latest ripening fruits in our orchard spaces. Harvest and process the fruit from October to December depending on the variety. Harvest non-astringent Asian varieties when they are hard, but fully colored (ranging from light yellow-orange to dark orange-red). American and astringent Asian varieties should not be harvested until soft, as fruit picked too early will cause your mouth to feel dry and pucker from the astringency! Sweetness is often improved after the first frost.

Volunteers harvesting American persimmons at The Woodlands in West Philadelphia. Most effective technique was to shake branches and capture fruit on a tarp below.


Before consuming persimmons, please read POP’s edible plant disclaimer below.

Persimmon fruit is a very good source of dietary fiber with 100 g containing about 9.5% of recommended daily intake of soluble and insoluble fiber. Fresh and dried Persimmon fruit also contain healthy amounts of minerals like potassium, manganese (15% of DRI), copper (12% of DRI), and phosphorus. It is moderately high in calories (provides 70 calories/100 g) but very low in fats. Persimmons can be eaten fresh, dried, and cooked. Dried persimmon fruits are popular in Japan and often used in cookies, cakes, muffins, puddings, salads and as a topping in breakfast cereal.


The Philadelphia Orchard Project stresses that you should not consume parts of any wild edible plants, herbs, weeds, trees,​ or bushes until you have verified with your health professional that they are safe for you. As with any new foods that you wish to try, it is best to introduce them slowly into your diet in small amounts.

The information presented on this website is for informational, reference, and educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as a substitute for diagnosis and treatment by a health care professional. Always consult a health care professional or medical doctor when suffering from any health ailment,

disease, illness, or injury, or before attempting any traditional or folk remedies. Keep all plants away from children. As with any natural product, they can be toxic if misused. 

To the best of our knowledge,​ the information contained herein is accurate and we have endeavored to provide sources for any borrowed​ material. Any testimonials on this web site are based on individual results and do not constitute a warranty of safety or guarantee that you will achieve the same results.

Neither the Philadelphia Orchard Project nor its employees, volunteers, or website contributors may be held liable or responsible for any allergy, illness,​ or injurious effect that any person or animal may suffer as a result of reliance on the information contained on this website nor as a result of the ingestion or use of any of the plants mentioned ​herein.

A food mill or strainer can be used to separate persimmon pulp from seeds and skin for use in baked goods, fruit leather, etc.


2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup persimmon pulp
1 teaspoon baking soda
Optional: 1/2 cup walnuts, 1/2 cup raisins

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Oil a 9×4 inch pan.
2. In a small bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, salt, nuts, and raisins.
3. In a large bowl, blend eggs, sugar, and oil. Mix baking soda into pulp, and add to bowl. Fold in flour mixture.
4. Pour batter into prepared pan.
5. Bake for 75 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean.


Hoshigaki Japanese Dried Persimmons: Japanese Dried Persimmons

Persimmon Fruit Leather:

Harvesting and Processing Pulp for Persimmon Bread, etc:

This POP Blog was written by 2018 Repair the World Fellow Megan Brookens with assistance from Executive Director Phil Forsyth and Admin Assistant Natalie Agoos. 

SUPPORT US!  If you found this entry useful, informative, or inspiring, please consider a donation of any size to help POP in planting and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia:

More Info:

PLANT SPOTLIGHT: Black Walnut (Juglans nigra)

Posted on Categories Blog, Cooking & Preservation, Harvesting, Home, Orchard Care, Plant Profiles, Plants, POPharvests, Propagation, Recipes, Tree Care, Wild EdiblesTags , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Black Walnut (Juglans nigra)

Tree Facts

Black Walnut  (Juglans Nigra) is a perennial, stone fruit tree native to Eastern North America, commonly found in riparian zones (area between water and land).  Technically the walnut produces a fruit called a “drupe” and is not a true nut! The drupes are harvested in the fall, dehulled and dried to allow the nut meat to cure for consumption.  This tree can grow very large, eventually reaching over 100’ in height and 6’ in diameter. The black walnut is a member of the Juglandaceae family. Careful consideration should be made before planting or growing around this tree as it is allelopathic, suppressing growth of many other plant species by releasing a chemical called juglone. The black walnut contains the highest concentration of juglone in the nut hulls, roots, and leaves and is commonly used as an herbicide.  This tree has numerous uses, such as: nutritional, medicinal, dye, structural/decorative, antibacterial, and herbicidal.

Seasonal Care-

The black walnut tree grows well between zones 5a-9a.  Commonly found natively near water, these trees prefer deep rich soil, moist yet well drained. Black Walnut is self fertile, but puts on a better fruit set with two trees. It is generally easy to grow with little attention needed.  

Winter/ Spring: Pruning is generally not necessary. Compost or organic fertilizer can be added in the Spring to maximize nut production.

Summer: The first year, a Black Walnut tree should be irrigated every week with 3-5 gallons of water. Once established, the tree generally only needs watering during severe drought.

Fall: Fruit is generally harvested from the ground, dehulled and allowed to dry for a few weeks before cracking the nut and consuming/storing the nut meat.

Nutritional Benefit:

Black Walnuts are packed with nutrients and are considered a superfood.  They contain one of the highest protein contents of any nut (7 grams per serving), as well as high levels of Manganese, Omega-3, antioxidants and other nutrients.  The nutritional content supports metabolism and bone structure, and can help protect against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain neurodegenerative conditions.

Propagating Black Walnut Trees:

As previously noted, Black Walnuts are toxic to a variety of plants and research should be done prior to planting to understand the effects that Black Walnut will have in that area.  Black Walnuts are best propagated by seed, collecting the fruit in the fall dehulling and immediately placing 5-6 whole nuts, 5-6” in the ground. Protect the nuts from animals, by placing chicken wire or cloth over the nuts and securing to the ground.  Cover with leaves/mulch and be sure to properly label location. In the spring remove the protective cover and water the sapling every week with 3-5 gallons of water.

Processing Black Walnuts for Nutmeat

  • Pick nuts up off the ground as soon as possible by hand or nut wizard. It is best to process nuts while the hull is mostly green to avoid mold and astringent nutmeat.
  • Use gloves to handle and de-hull the nuts. They will stain your fingers. They will also stain concrete for a period of time, clothing, and other surfaces.
  • Remember that walnut hulls halve a chemical called “juglone” that suppresses the growth of certain plants, so be mindful of where you take your hulls and wash water
  • Remove green hulls with hammer, knife, or strong hands (some people step on them or even drive over them covered in a tarp!). If hulls are too tough to work, let soften for a few days or buy a de-huller!
  • If you encounter worms when removing hulls, do not be alarmed as they do not affect the nut meat inside the inner shell
  • Rinse de-hulled walnuts to remove debris however you wish. A simple method is to fill a 5-gallon bucket with water and agitate a batch of nuts with a hoe, cement mixer, or by hand three times. Discard nuts that float, a legendary sign of likely spoilage.
  • Spread cleaned nuts out in a single layer to dry for 2-4 weeks. Make sure you do this in an area that squirrels absolutely cannot get to, as they will find a way to steal your nuts. Squirrels broke into Michael’s outdoor solar dehydrator this year because the openings didn’t have thick enough wire mesh! Some people swear that forced heat drying black walnuts at 95-100 deg F for 3-4 days is best for flavor and storage. Turn the shells every so often throughout the drying process.
  • Dried nuts can be stored in shell in a cool, dry location. They can be also be frozen until ready for use. Shelled nuts can be stored in a fridge or freezer for longer shelf life, and salt brining with further dehydration is a way to store walnuts longer at room temperature.
  • To crack black walnuts, do not use a regular nut cracker. It will break. Use a nut cracker that is made for black walnuts, or use a vice grip, or hammer with good hand eye coordination. You’ll want a nut pick or small scraping device to remove the nut meat from the cracked shell.

Volunteers de-husking black walnuts at a POPharvest gleaning workshop at The Woodlands in West Philadelphia.

Black Walnut Recipes!

  1. Basic Black Walnut Pie 
  2. Black Walnut Hummingbird Cake (Cream Cheese Frosting)
  3. Black Walnut Cinnamon Ice Cream
  4. Black Walnut Fudge 
  5. Black Walnut Chicken Quiche 

**Click HERE for more delicious black walnut recipes!!**

Processing Black Walnuts for Dye, Wood Stain, and Ink

  • Add green hulls to a stainless steel pot of water (We used the first rinse water from the above process).
  • Simmer for at least 30 minutes. For darker colors simmer longer, add more hulls, and even boil down the liquid.
  • Cool the liquid and strain through muslin bag or other cloth.
  • Test the strength of the dye/stain/ink. If darker color desired, return to step 2. Be careful not to scorch the liquid if boiling it down.
  • Store liquid in a glass jar or bottle, and add 100 proof vodka or rubbing alcohol (up to 1:4 ratio) to prevent mold and preserve for later use. The liquid will mold after a while if untreated.
  • Experiment with tie-dye or other fabric dying methods, black walnut as a wood stain, and as ink! Fabrics dye a cocoa brown and do not require a pre-mordant for dye to set as with other dyes. Wood stain is a light brown that can me made darker by concentrating the liquid.

Black Walnut tie-dye and wood-staining demos at POPharvest workshop.

Black Walnuts as Medicine

Black walnut hulls contain very powerful medicine that has been used for a variety of conditions including intestinal worms in humans and animals, while it must also be approached with caution. It is also a natural source of iodine. Do not attempt to use black walnut medicine without first consulting professional medical practitioners and clinical herbalists.

This POP Blog was written by 2018 POP Intern Greg Hample and Orchard Director Michael Muehlbauer with assistance from Admin Assistant Natalie Agoos. 

SUPPORT US!  If you found this entry useful, informative, or inspiring, please consider a donation of any size to help POP in planting and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia:

Links for more info:

Wild Foodies of Philly

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Our main mission is to educate the public on the many uses of wild plants and animals for food, fiber, and medicine. Wild edible plants and animals are the only truly sustaina…

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POP 2018 Summer Newsletter

Posted on Categories Blog, Home, NewslettersTags , , , , , , , ,

2018 has been an exciting year so far for the Philadelphia Orchard Project and we thank each and every one of you for supporting us in our mission to create a more beautiful, bountiful Philadelphia.


-Planted our 1,239th fruit tree and supported our 61st community orchard site
-Involved over 700 volunteers and 1200 participants at orchard plantings, workshops, work days, harvests, school lessons, 1st annual Fig Fest and 10th annual East Park Strawberry Fest!
-Assisted with brand new orchard plantings at Cramp Elementary, Union Baptist Church, and Wyck Historic House
-Received new support from musician Paul Simon, Impact100, the Claneil Foundation, and more!

We hope you will take a few minutes to read below about some our POP events, past and future, as well as some of the interesting people and stories we’ve encountered along the way.  

Volunteer Work Days



POP is always in need of volunteers to help us with orchard maintenance throughout the season, workdays occur monthly so be sure to check our website for updates on events across the city.

Volunteer Groups

Getting your hands dirty in an orchard is always better with friends, if you or anyone you know is looking for the opportunity to help out as a group, reach out to:

2018 Updates

POP is Growing!

This year we are thrilled to introduce new staff members Orchard Director Michael Muehlbauer and Orchard Assistant Alkebu-lan Marcus! This year’s POP team also includes Repair the World Fellow Megan Brookens and interns Alex Vogelsong, Cole Jadrosich, Greg Hample, and Abaigh Casey. We’d also like to express our thanks again to departing staff Robyn and Tanya.

Orchard Education

We’ve had a busy and bountiful spring season with POP’s School Orchard program and community educational initiatives. Since January, we’ve delivered 17 lessons to 6 school orchard partners and reached 210 students.

Participating school orchard partners included William L. Sayre High School, William T. Tilden Middle School, Henry C. Lea Elementary School, Overbrook School for the Blind, Penn Alexander School, and John F. Hartranft School. Lesson topics included propagation, planting, and pruning; creating value-added products from the orchard; wild edible identification; and food preservation methods and traditions.

To read more about this year’s school orchard program, see our recent blog post update “Teaching Tomorrow’s Tenders

Orchard Plantings

POP’s core work of planting and supporting community orchards in the city continues to grow, and we are now working with 61 different orchard sites in neighborhoods across the city! 234 volunteers joined with us and our partners at 14 orchard planting events this spring.

Brand new orchards were planted with Cramp Elementary in North Philly, Union Baptist Church in South Philly, and Wyck Historic House in Northwest Philly. In all, 33 new fruit and nut trees, 92 berries and vines, and 526 perennial flowers and herbs were planted this season!

To learn more about all our orchard partners and view a map of POP sites, click here or visit

POPHarvest Gleaning


June was joyful and filled with Juneberries, one of our favorite native fruits. With volunteers and orchard partners, we picked 120 lbs of juneberries at 10 harvest events across the city.

These incredible, abundantly available fruits were then featured by local businesses with a shared aim to increase awareness and utilize local fruit that would otherwise go to waste. We also harvested 50 lbs of fruit during Mulberry Madness and we are looking forward to Paw Paw Palooza 2018. Stay tuned for other gleaning events and a new workshop series highlighting lesser known fruits & herbs and led by community educators.

Join our POPHarvest listserv to get involved!


POP Blog
POP’s urban orchard blog continues to cover a variety of topics in ecological orchard care as well as highlighting our plants, programs, partners, and volunteers.

Some recent posts include:

Those Nutty Gardeners!: PA & NY Nut Growers Association

The Spotted Lanternfly: New Orchard Superpest?

Amaranth: Super Feed, Super Weed

Shrubs with Shrubs: Incorporating Underutilized Shrubs into Your Garden and Your Cocktails

New POP Pest & Disease Identification Guides!

Need help in identifying what specific pests and diseases are troubling your fruit trees?  POP has put together a series of photo guides for apples, cherries, peaches, plums, pears and Asian pears!  Download them for free from our website:

Weed ID Guides

Our user-friendly guide was designed for orchard partners to identify over 40 of the most common weeds in Philadelphia. The guide also educates partners about positive and negative attributes of each weed, including life cycle, growth habit, edible and medicinal qualities, and ecological value. Based on these characteristics, the guide makes recommendations for which weeds to consider tolerating and which to consider removing.

Although intended for use by our partners, POP’s Weed Identification Guide has value for any home gardener! The price for mail delivery is $18 per guide and you can purchase them here via PayPal.

Please reach out to for bulk ordering options. We are happy to provide reduced pricing options for orders of 5 or more copies.

Keep POP Growing Strong

Your Amazon purchases can benefit POP at no cost to you!

You can direct Amazon to give a percentage of all purchases to POP.

Workplace Donations:

POP can now accept workplace donations via United Way (#53494), Earthshare, and Benevity: ask your employer about how to set up tax-exempt contributions and matching donations to support our work. We are also now able to accept stock transfers, so you can divest, and then invest in planting the future with POP!

Individual Donations:

The Philadelphia Orchard Project is deeply grateful to each and every one of our generous donors and the support of our community. To make a donation simply click below and fill out the online form.