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:


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

POP History 2009 & Volunteer Highlight: Jerry Silberman

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“Community orchards resonated with me because of all the things that trees can provide that vegetables gardens alone can’t – shade for one, but more importantly, a visible symbol of permanence and continuity.”  -Jerry Silberman, 2009 POP Golden Persimmon volunteer

In honor of the Philadelphia Orchard Project’s 10th anniversary in 2017, we’re looking back at a different year in our history every month.  We’re also designating Golden Persimmon Awards for each year in recognition of the extraordinary efforts of our volunteers.

We will be celebrating our 9th annual East Park Strawberry Harvest Festival on June 10th, 2017, a treasured community event first held in 2009!

Philadelphia Orchard Project History: 2009
POP organized our first ever Strawberry Festival in spring and Apple Festival in fall 2009 in collaboration with our community partners the East Park Revitalization Alliance and Woodford Mansion; these engaging community events have continued ever since!  POP’s core work also continued with 5 new community orchards planted in 2009 and the development of a more formal application procedure to vet new community orchard partners.  One of the more exciting projects was partnering with the SHARE Food Program in planting an orchard at their headquarters, now part of a multi-faceted urban farm program educating emergency food recipients about growing and eating a wide variety of fresh produce.  We also planted fruit trees at Greenfield Elementary as part of an innovative, collaborative project in which Philadelphia Water depaved large sections of the schoolyard to create a series of garden spaces.

POP ORCHARDS PLANTED in 2009: SHARE Food Program, Greenfield Elementary, Evelyn Sanders, Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School, Roxborough Presbyterian Church
2009 MEDIA COVERAGE: ‘Power Plants‘, GRID magazine.
2009 POP BOARD PRESIDENT: Domenic Vitiello

POP is proud to have planted fruit trees as part of the schoolyard transformation project known as Greening Greenfield, completed in 2009.


I don’t remember how I heard about POP, but I was there for the very first planting at the South Philly Teen Orchard and I was hooked. Community orchards resonated with me because of all the things that trees can provide that vegetables gardens alone can’t – shade for one, but more importantly, a visible symbol of permanence and continuity. The vision of POP that the orchards would be community property also speaks to permanence and continuity.  What’s more, I have to confess, most of my favorite foods grow on trees.

After its planting, I served as POP’s Orchard Liaison, or lead volunteer, for the South Philly Teen Orchard for more than five years.  The growth of the Teen Orchard was not a linear, unbroken success. The neighborhood had its share of problems, a polyglot community with new immigrants from many countries, much poverty and the stress that go with it. For a while, a drug house across the street regularly vandalized the orchard.

But for many neighborhood children and teens over the years, it was an exciting project, and a way to share different cultures. Some youth connected some of the plantings with  foods and products in their mother’s kitchens, and many, city born and bred, had their first close up appreciation of plants, bugs, and soil – and the amazement of eating something straight off the bush. In volunteering with POP at the Teen Orchard for many years I enjoyed, and learned from, the company of the young people.  And of course I learned how to care for our plants, and how to pass that learning along.

The growth and development of this orchard helped POP learn and evolve a model of community partnership now applied in neighborhoods across the city. POP’s Orchard Committee meetings spent a lot of time working through how to lead new partner groups through a process that would result long-term success in creating and caring for their community orchard spaces.

A few years ago I organized a bicycle tour as part of Philadelphia Orchard Day, something I hope can happen again. But it would now take several days to see all the sites/sights POP has to offer.

Planted in 2009, the orchard at the SHARE Food Program has since outlasted the neighboring Tastycake factory!

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:

The World of Apples: A Tour of The USDA Apple Collection

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Imagine if the apple section in your grocery store looked like this! Here is just a small fraction of fruit from the 2,000 types of trees present in the USDA ARS Geneva Apple Collection, almost all of it very tasty.
Imagine if the apple section in your grocery store looked like this! Here is just a small fraction of fruit from the 2,000 types of trees present in the USDA ARS Geneva Apple Collection, almost all of it very tasty.

Article and photos by Robyn Mello, POP Program Director. See an extensive photo selection from the tour below the article.

On Monday, I had the sheer joy and privilege of taking the day to visit what is likely the most unique display of Malus (apple) trees in the country, a dream nearly two years in the making. The USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Geneva, NY office is housed within a large office complex alongside the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station and Cornell University Cooperative Extension. Just around the corner from the offices is McCarthy Farm, home of the USDA ARS Outdoor Apple Collection. AKA Apple Heaven.

What is The USDA ARS Apple Collection?

What makes this government apple collection the most unique? It’s a hub for genetic preservation, not a commercial orchard or proprietary plant-breeding farm. It’s focused on keeping alive all the different species within the Malus genus and hundreds of cultivars within the grocery store-ready Malus domestica species. Even the most diverse apple orchards working to preserve heirloom apples or those working to breed new types of apples are most often working with Malus domestica (domesticated apple) alone. Commercial orchards are working with cultivars or varieties. ARS Geneva has 53 species.

A vastly underfunded and understaffed program, ARS Geneva only has a handful of researchers. For example, there’s only one researcher in the whole country dedicated to developing new apple rootstocks! However, C. Thomas Chao, the collection’s Horticulturist and Curator, was kind enough to stand outside in the cold with me for nearly an hour answering my questions.

After that, he allowed me free reign to stay in the orchard and taste any fruit I wanted until the gates were closed! [Envision me, a proverbial kid in a candy store, hiding my glee at this news.] They’re not interested in or able to compete with commercial growers or get involved in Intellectual Property disputes around breeding the newest and best apple cultivar, so there was no secrecy involved. In fact, nearly all of the collection’s material can be requested and received in the form of grafting material from the ARS Apple Collection Catalog for free! They want people to know about and use this material.

Thomas explained there are nearly 8,000 accessions (items) in the collection, about 1,500 of them grown from wild seed around the world and the rest from plant tissue grafted on dwarfing or semi-dwarfing Malus rootstock. 2,000 varieties are present. Thomas said, “We’re the only ones in the country focused on the wild stuff,” probably because “nothing wild will ever be turned into a commercial variety.” The crops are sprayed according to Cornell Cooperative Extension recommendations, but of course, sometimes, trees die. Fortunately, there is a liquid nitrogen cryo-backup system in Fort Collins, Colorado for almost every specimen in the Permanent Collection to ensure things aren’t lost. A friend of mine, Christopher Richards, has a lot to do with the research and maintenance of that collection. He was in the mountains in China doing wild apple research just this past week. I have a really awesome job, but if I didn’t, I’d surely be working to get the proper education to work alongside Chris or Thomas!

Apples most people are familiar with are clones of mother trees found or bred for tasty fruit and grafted onto rootstock with preferable growing qualities (see our earlier blog post about grafting for more explanation). Just as inbreeding with animal species or senescence in gourmet mushroom farming, the reliance on a limited number of monocropped cultivars of apples can ultimately result in weaker specimens, more pest and disease problems, and less tasty and nutrient-rich food. If Malus domestica cultivars begin to fail, rootstocks are attacked by new or stronger pests, or climate change continues to threaten currently-accepted growing conditions, the ARS Geneva genetic databank will allow farmers and scientists to go back to the drawing board.

What are the apples like?

My time in the orchard was cut short due to 11 hours of round trip driving, very cold temperatures, and an afternoon rainstorm, so I was really only able to view the site’s Core Collection (pun hopefully intended) and a row of its wild seed-grown trees. The Core Collection is 3 rows of 258 accessions of apples, including 40 species that represent the maximum genetic diversity of the whole collection. It’s the place researchers start their work, and once they narrow down their search, they may move into a more specific area of species or hybrids within the larger 2,000 accession orchard. As a very amateur researcher, the best I could do is use my eyes and mouth to decide where I want to focus my citizen science research.

Each tree is well-labeled with the species, cultivar name, PI (Plant Identification) number, and GMAL (Geneva Malus) number. PI relates to the number in GRIN Global, the USDA’s national database and Germplasm Resource Information Network (GRIN). GMAL is the local number for The ARS Geneva Catalog, necessary because not all specimens are yet part of the GRIN collection. These numbers are how one can find the specimens they’d like to request from the catalog.

Thomas told me the best time to come is in mid-to-late September, but there were still tons of trees loaded with fruit. Since it’s not a production orchard, no one is harvesting the fruit. Rather, it just falls to the ground when it ripens and is left to rot. Seeing the ground below productive apple trees is really a sight to behold.

Because this isn't a production orchard, all the fruit falls to the ground, creating a rainbow of fruit.
Because this isn’t a production orchard, all the fruit falls to the ground, creating a rainbow of fruit.

The orchard in the sunshine reflected a full palette of colors ranging dark brown, lime green, magenta, canary yellow, cadmium red, burgundy, orange, and baby pink in innumerable combinations and patterns. Their flesh ranged from bright white to pink to yellow to beet red. Some of the fruits were soft with age, others were surprisingly waxy, and others covered in a soft fuzz. They were round, oval, the size of a dime or the size of a grapefruit and everything in between. Flesh textures were crisp, soft, grainy, crunchy, mealy, and starchy. Some were like eating a spoonful of table sugar; some so bitter and astringent that they left a film in my mouth akin to eating an underripe American persimmon; some with such a note of perfume they were hard to eat; some so sour they made my cheeks hurt; but many were just the right combination of sweet-tart complexity.

Bark colors were brown, gray, orange. Leaves were different shapes and sizes–some more like hawthorn than apple–and had vivid orange-red fall colors. The cultivar “Hordapfel” had large green leaves with beautiful purple veins. The fruits even rot differently according to their composition–some just juicing away to nothing, others leaving dessicated fruit mummies.

I tasted probably 100 different apples from at least 24 species. It didn’t take long to realize that their flavor and texture could be pretty regularly categorized according to color and size. My winners of the day were Malus domestica cultivars with orange-hues in their skin and flesh in the yellow spectrum, including names like “Belle de Boskoop”, “Calville Blanc”, and “Orleans Reinette”; as well as smaller fruits with green and pink hues in their skin and white or pink flesh such as “Lady” (a 2,000 year-old cultivar) and “Lady Williams”. The “Liberty” cultivar, which we often plant in our POP partner orchards due to its pest and disease resistance, is definitely one of the tastiest and considered one of the highest in phytonutrients.

Malus sieversii is a species native to Kazakhstan which is believed to be the primary ancestor of most cultivars of orchard apple (Malus domestica), and it is in danger of extinction. Keeping these specimens alive on dwarf and their own rootstocks is very important to this collection and the future of food. Two very late varieties still with fruit on them, KAZ 96 09-02 and KAZ 96 09-02, were pretty tasty, and lots of other large crabapples from various species were deliciously sour as well. If you have a good bit of outdoor space and patience, you can write to C. Thomas Chao requesting a Malus sieversii seed packet from their open-pollinated block, and he’ll send you 25 seeds and instructions for stratification and germination. Beware, however, that they could end up anywhere between 10’ and 50’ tall!

Malus sikkimensis had tiny, transluscent, red-brown fruit. Malus coronaria had waxy green fruit with orange leaves. Malus florentina had clusters of small fruit with hawthorn-like leaves. Malus fusca had some of my favorite crabapple flavor with large clusters of small, oblong, green-brown fruits. Malus bhutanica had gorgeous small magenta fruits, but they were the worst for astringency. Other Malus domestica cultivars I particularly liked were “Smokehouse”, “Snow” (like Snow White?), “Cox’s Orange Pippin”. “M25”, a very common rootstock variety, also had really good fruit. I got to taste very common cultivars like “Delicious”, “Golden Delicious”, “Fuji”, and “Granny Smith” and I was largely unimpressed compared to the lesser-known cultivars. I found that the fruits with dark red/burgundy skin and bright white flesh had some of the most simple, sucrose flavors.

Next year, I’ll prepare to visit for longer and take better notes on cultivars and species for personal and POP nursery purposes. This whirlwind one-day adventure was well worth it!

Dreams do come true!
Dreams do come true!

How can you help with this work?

    • Request new varieties of apples in your grocery stores. There are many cultivars grown in the United States, but very few of the many thousands known are grown commercially on a large-scale.
    • Learn to graft, perhaps at an upcoming POP Grafting Workshop! Then, request plant tissue from the ARS Apple Catalog or GRIN Global Database, grow your own fruit, and feed your neighbors! Orders are due in by January 10, 2017 for next season’s tissue requests.
    • Write to your Congressperson and demand that more of our taxpayer dollars be put towards funding crucial non-commercial plant preservation work. The work of the USDA ARS is important to the livelihoods of farm owners and laborers, consumer wallets and diets, our national security, and the survival of several global ecosystems.
    • Become a POP Liaison and learn to assist in caring for apple trees (and over 150 other species of edible and medicinal plants) at one of our 50+ community orchards spread throughout Philadelphia!
    • Get involved with local seedsavers groups or the Seedsavers’ Exchange out of Chicago to ensure the upkeep of agricultural biodiversity.
    • Visit and buy apples from a local heritage apple orchard like Northstar Orchard in Cochranville, PA. You can find a map and listing of other local orchards featuring a wide array of apples (and even search by cultivar) at
    • Try not to demonize farmers who grow conventionally, but become educated and encourage your local growers to become organic and/or low-spray. It’s extremely challenging–but not impossible–to grow apples organically in our region and climate, due to regularly humid conditions and the fact that almost everyone is reliant on chemicals, making organic and low-spray orchards beacons of hope for pests. Try to find ways to encourage organic growing practices through food policy work, voting with your wallet (buy organic), and volunteering at a local orchard.
    • Take a Permaculture Design Course (PDC) to learn how working with the landscape and introducing a greater diversity of species can improve yields and lessen problems. I’m working to develop a Philly-based PDC for 2017, so stay tuned!

I love all creatures, all plants, and all fruit trees. I definitely could not pick a favorite. But there’s something very special about the apple, physically and symbolically. As a genus, it relates to this country’s history, nutritional evolution (or devolution), the development of the agricultural economy, globalization, international development, environmental conservation, technological innovation, climate change, and current political and social trends related to our food system. Our world can easily be viewed through an apple lens. Though many of us probably eat more apples than other fruits, don’t take their abundance in a grocery store for granted. Appreciate your fruit and food-growers, and become a more conscious consumer!

Photos (More Resources Below)

The first apple we sampled had deep red flesh and would make a wonderful pink cider. The fruit and leaves of this tree were high in anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant commonly found in blueberries.
The first apple we sampled had deep red flesh and would make a wonderful pink cider. The fruit and leaves of this tree were high in anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant commonly found in blueberries.

Some wild apples grow along the ground with a serious weeping habit.
Some wild apples grow along the ground with a serious weeping habit.

A wild Malus toringa leaf-shape
A wild Malus toringa leaf-shape

A view of the taller, more forested-feeling wild specimen area.
A view of the taller, more forested-feeling wild specimen area.

Some of the seed-grown wild specimens had very different leafing patterns than our commonly viewed apple leaves.
Some of the seed-grown wild specimens had very different leafing patterns than our commonly viewed apple leaves.

Our tour was cut short by a rainstorm.
Our tour was cut short by a rainstorm.

The hybrid cultivar "Ottawa 11" was abundant and beautiful.
The hybrid cultivar “Ottawa 11” was abundant and beautiful.


"Hordapfel" cultivar had beautiful and large purple-veined leaves.
“Hordapfel” cultivar had beautiful and large purple-veined leaves.

Malus hybrid "Eleyi" with pink flesh
Malus hybrid “Eleyi” with pink flesh

Lady Williams cultivar
Lady Williams cultivar

img_0099 img_0098

The "Belle de Boskoop" cultivar was huge and delicious!
The “Belle de Boskoop” cultivar was huge and delicious!

Malus x robusta "Korea"
Malus x robusta “Korea”

Malus x hartwigii
Malus x hartwigii

Malus fusca - Oregon or Pacific crabapple
Malus fusca – Oregon or Pacific crabapple

Malus bhutanica aka Malus toringoides - cut-leaf crabapple - is native to China and has extremely tannic, astringent qualities similar to the effect of eating an underripe American persimmon.
Malus bhutanica aka Malus toringoides – cut-leaf crabapple – is native to China and has extremely tannic, astringent qualities similar to the effect of eating an underripe American persimmon.

Malus hupuhensis - Tea crabapple - The different colors of bark in the orchard are also stunning!
Malus hupuhensis – Tea crabapple – The different colors of bark in the orchard are also stunning!

Malus ioensis "Bechtel Crab" - Prairie crabapple
Malus ioensis “Bechtel Crab” – Prairie crabapple

Malus ioensis "Texana" - Texas crabapple
Malus ioensis “Texana” – Texas crabapple

Malus florentina - Hawthorn-leaf or Florentine crabapple
Malus florentina – Hawthorn-leaf or Florentine crabapple

Malus coronaria - Sweet crabapple
Malus coronaria – Sweet crabapple

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The orchard in all its glory
The orchard in all its glory

The Calville Blanc cultivar, with yellow skin and flesh, was one of the first and best apples I sampled.
The Calville Blanc cultivar, with yellow skin and flesh, was one of the first and best apples I sampled.

The orange-skinned domestic cultivars were consistently delicious!
The orange-skinned domestic cultivars were consistently delicious!

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Some Disease Resistant Apple Cultivars

The ReZista Collection


Crimson Crisp



Pixie Crunch



Organic apple production websites

Michael Phillips’ Holistic Orcharding Site –

Organic Apple books –

Sources of Knowledge and Heritage/Resistant Apple Varieties

Lee Calhoun – Southern Heritage Apple Collection

John Bunker – Super Chilly Farm and FedCo Trees, Maine

Oregon Heritage Farm

North Star Orchard – PA

Orange Pippin – England Database, maybe available in USDA Collection

Susan Brown, Apple Breeding Program, Cornell –

Seedsavers Exchange –

University of Minnesota Apple Varieties –

Washington State University Apple Breeding –

USDA And Global Fruit Research Resources

ARS Geneva website –

Google Scholar (for USDA Research articles) –

USDA Plant Collection Database – GRIN Global –

ARS Geneva Apple Collection Catalog –

(Best to search by PI number)

Apple Rootstock Breeding Program –

Global Fruit News from Yentzen Group –

Good Fruit Grower Magazine –



Cedar Apple Rust

Posted on Categories Blog, Home, Orchard Care, Tree DiseasesTags , , , , , , , , , ,

Cedar Apple Rust (CAR) is a fungal disease that attacks apples. It mainly occurs in North America in areas east of the Rocky Mountains. This fungus requires two hosts to complete its life cycle: the apple (Malus) and the Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus). Only spores produced on cedar can infect the apple. Similar cedar rusts can also affect pears, hawthorns, quinces, and serviceberries/juneberries.

Cedar apple rust on fruit with characteristic orange spore bodies. Similar cedar rusts also infect serviceberries, hawthornes, quinces, and even pears!

Once CAR has overwintered in galls on cedar trees, spring rains can cause horn-like structures to protrude from the galls. These structures, called telia, can then become jelly-like and swollen. When the telial horns absorb water, tiny spores inside the structure germinate and are discharged in the air, which is how CAR reproduces. Any spores that land on young apple tissue may germinate and infect the tree if enough water is present and the temperature is between 46 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Humid spring conditions are ideal for infection.

Once an apple tree is infected with the rust, small yellow spots will appear on the leaves and fruit. These will later expand and turn orange, with brown hairy gall structures appearing on the underside. Infected fruit will be small, malformed, and may drop before reaching maturity.

Management of Cedar Apple Rust   

car leaf
Cedar apple rust on the underside of leaves.

Cedar Apple Rust spores can travel up to 4 miles, so your trees may be at risk of infection even if there isn’t an Eastern Red Cedar or Juniper on your property. Removing nearby trees of this type is still a good way to reduce the chance of infection. There are also several apple cultivars that are resistant to CAR and can be planted when available in order to reduce instances of this fungus. Another easy way to reduce infection is to rake up and dispose of fallen leaves and fruits from under the tree in the fall and remove galls from nearby cedars. If CAR is a big problem for your orchard, preemptive organic fungicide sprays of copper or sulfur in mid-spring after the spores have been released from the cedar host may reduce infection. Neem oil may also help to a lesser degree.  This spray should be done around the time of tight cluster in apples (when leaves and buds are present, but before the blossoms open up). Spores are only released once in spring, so spraying during the growing season is not effective.


Image result for cedar rust gall
Cedars (junipers) are the alternate host for the disease. Removing the brown overwintering galls from nearby cedars can help reduce infection of apple trees, but spores can travel miles!


This edition of POP Tips prepared with assistance from POP Intern Nettie Baugher. 

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Preventing and Treating Fire Blight

Posted on Categories Blog, Home, Orchard Care, Tree DiseasesTags , , , , ,

Fire blight is a bacterial disease mostly affecting apples, pears, Asian pears, and close relatives like quinces and hawthorns. It gets its name because it causes young fruits, shoots, and branch tips to appear blackened and shriveled, as though scorched by fire. Dead leaves remain on the tree and shoot tips curl downward.
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Fire Blight Pathology 

Fire blight is mostly contracted through spring blossoms of fruit trees. Honeybees can be a carrier of the disease after they’ve pollinated an infected blossom. Once a tree is infected, it carries the disease indefinitely unless removed through pruning. An infection can be spread from the blossoms and branch tips to the rest of the tree and appears as a black discoloration in the bark.

Weather conditions greatly affect the rate of the disease spread. The disease is most seriously spread during wet springs, especially if it is warm and rainy during bloom-time or pre-boom.

Fire Blight Treatment and Prevention 

An otherwise healthy tree showing signs of Fire Blight can be cared for an managed through pruning of damaged areas. Prune off diseased wood as soon as you notice it to prevent it from spreading. Pruning cuts should be made into healthy wood, at least 6 to 12 inches below where you see any sign of infection.

It is very important to sterilize your tools between each pruning cut (good general practice anytime you’re pruning during active growing season) to avoid spreading the disease. Use rubbing alcohol or a 10% bleach 90% water solution to sterilize. This can be done by dunking your pruner or saw blade or by using a spray bottle to coat the blade in between each cut. Prevention of Fire Blight starts with selecting disease resistant varieties of your trees (see link below). A copper sulfate spray in early spring before infection also can reduce your chances of contracting the disease. Unfortunately, there is no ultimate cure for Fire Blight, and the best way to avoid it is to carefully monitor your trees for early signs and take preventative measures.


Here is a good primer on Fire Blight including lists of resistant varieties of apples, pears, and Asian pears:

This edition of POP TIPS prepared with assistance from 2014 POP intern Megan Bazin. 
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:  

Fall Canning Recipes

Posted on Categories Blog, Canning, Cooking & Preservation, Home, RecipesTags , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Jams, jellies, preserves, conserves, fruit butters, sauces and more!  Canning is another great way to preserve fruit to enjoy throughout the year. . .
Intro to Canning Safety
Ensuring that the food you’re eating is free from things that will make you sick is extremely important. If you’re new to canning but have an abundance of harvest, now is as good a time as any to experiment! These tips are only an introduction to show you how simple the process actually is. Please read more in depth on websites listed below, attend a workshop, or can with more experienced friends to ensure you understand the whole process and will be able to enjoy your labors all winter long.
1. Tempered glass mason jars should be used that are specifically for canning purposes. Don’t reuse glass jars from things like store-bought tomato sauce or mayonnaise. Those are too thin & will shatter under prolonged heat or pressure. 
2. New mason jars come with jar ring bands and sealing lids. You can reuse jars and ring bands as long as they are in good condition, but sealing lids must be purchased each time you can something new because their seal is compromised the first time they’re used.
3. Before filling, examine and clean all jars and ring bands, and fill them with hot water until they’re filled with food.
4. Adding an acidic ingredient, such as lemon juice, will help to preserve the color and health of your recipes.
5. If you’re working exclusively with fruits, tomatoes, or pickles, a canning kettle, or hot water bath, method will suffice to sterilize. Canning kettles can be purchased, or a deep stock pot. If using a stock pot, ensure that the bottom of the glass jars are raised from the bottom, either by using a cake rack in the bottom or even carefully lining up some extra jar ring bands on the bottom to rest the jars on. Fill the stock pot with water up to an inch above the top of the largest canning jar.
6. Canning vegetables, seafood, and meat requires a steam pressure canner, due to a general lack of acidity and shorter shelf life of these ingredients. Pressure canners are fairly expensive but can be shared by groups or perhaps borrowed from organizations that may have them. You may also get lucky if you frequent thrift stores like I do. Some of the great kitchen things people get rid of are crazy!
7. Some useful canning accessories include: colander or wire basket for blanching fruits, a food mill, a food chopper, a wire strainer, a wider-mouth canning funnel for easy jar-filling, a jar lifter for handling hot jars, an accurate thermometer to check temperatures, and an automatic timer.
8. When in doubt, throw it out! If you open up a jar after it’s been sitting a while & it seems a little weird–i.e. smells bad, has softened a lot, is discolored, or moldy–get rid of it. The biggest fear when canning is botulism. These organisms can live without air inside a sealed jar and will not be destroyed by boiling water. Botulism cannot survive in an acid environment, but with non-acidic ingredients, sustained steam pressure at 240 degrees F is necessary.
Canning Safety Resources
Easy Fall Fruit Recipes!
Now some fun stuff, to be prepared whether you’re canning or not! These things will all keep in the fridge, too, but not for as long.
Simple Apple Sauce
12 servings
6 pounds Apples, Peeled, Cored, And Cut Into 8 Slices
1 cup Apple Juice, Apple Cider, or water
Juice Of 1 Lemon
1/2 cup Brown Sugar, Packed
1 teaspoon Cinnamon, More Or Less To Taste
Optional Ingredients to taste: Nutmeg, Maple Syrup, Allspice, Butter

Combine all ingredients in a large pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes. Mash with a whisk or potato masher, or carefully puree in a food processor or blender (don’t fill too full) until smooth. Add to pint mason jars and follow canning safety for apple sauce all year long.

Fresh Fig Conserve
yields 5 1/2 pints
2 1/2 lbs fresh figs
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 c lemon juice
1 tbsp grated orange peel
1/2 c chopped walnuts 
Clip the stems from the figs and chop. Combine the figs and sugar in a large pan (about 5-quart size) and allow to stand for 1 hour. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring often, until thickened (about 20 minutes). Add the lemon juice, orange peel, and walnuts. Bring to boiling again; boil for 3 minutes. 
Prepare 5 half-pint canning jars, and fill to within 1/4 of the jar rim. Can away!
Caramel Spice Pear Butter
yields 9 1/2 pints
15 Bartlett pears
2 cups water
4 cups sugar
1 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger or 3 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 tbsp lemon juice
Wash pears but don’t peal or core them; slice into a heavy saucepan–at least 5-quart size. Add water, cover, and cook until tender–abut 30 minutes. 
Remove from heat and press the pears through a colander or food mill; measure the pear pulp to about 8 cups and return to the pan. Using a frying pan, heat 1 1/2 cups sugar, stirring, until it melts and caramelizes to a medium brown color. Pour immediately into the pear pulp (the syrup will sizzle and harden, but dissolve again as the preserves cook). Add the remaining sugar, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. Cook uncovered, until thick (about 45 minutes). Stir frequently as it begins to thicken to prevent it from sticking; stir in lemon juice just before removing it from the heat. 
Prepare 9 half-pint sized canning jars, fill the jars to within 1/4 inch of the rim, and can!
And this one won’t be found in your orchards, but I’m sure a lot of you have WAY too many tomatoes right now. A new idea!
Spicy Tomato Marmalade
makes 2 pints
4-5 lbs fully ripe tomatoes
1 each orange and lemon
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp each ground cinnamon and allspice
3/4 tsp ground cloves
3 cups sugar
Peel, core, and coarsely chop the tomatoes (8 cups). With a vegetable peeler, carefully remove thin outer peel from the orange and lemon; cut peel into thin slivers. Holding fruit over a bowl to catch the juice, cut remaining peel and white membrane off the orange and lemon and discard; coarsely chop the fruit.
In a 5-quart sauce pan or Dutch oven, combine the tomatoes, orange, lemon, slivered peel, vinegar, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and sugar. Bring to boiling, reduce heat, and simmer gently, uncovered, until reduced to about 2 pints; it takes about 2 hours. Stir frequently to prevent sticking.
Prepare 2 pint-sized canning jars, and fill within 1/8 inch of the top.

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: