2018 Orchard Partner Survey Summary

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POP surveys all of our orchard partners at season’s end and we like to share what we’ve learned each year! Each year, we ask partners about their orchards, orchard challenges, orchard value, community involvement, yields, distribution methods, how we perform as partners, our educational offerings, and how to improve. In all, 52 of 62 POP partners (84%) participated in our annual Partner Survey in November and December.

52 of 62 (84%) of POP orchard partners participated in this year’s annual survey.

Orchard Value

For the first time, ‘Gathering and Community Space’ was rated most often as having the “highest value” (37%) with a close second between ‘Educational Opportunities’ and ‘Beauty and Neighborhood Greening’ (35%). “Beauty & Neighborhood Greening”, “Educational Opportunities”, and “Community Health and Nutrition”  were rated as “High Value” by just under half of respondents. Voting drops off significantly in categories of “Moderate Value” with half of respondents electing not to assign both “Low Value” and “Lowest Value”. Among the votes cast in these lower categories, “Food Production and Distribution” received the most votes followed by “Environmental Impact”. The 44% of partners that rate “Food Production and Distribution” as “High Value” or “Highest Value” tend to be more established plantings, organizations centered around food access, or organizations with market-based endeavors. Smaller urban spaces with few trees will be more valued for their educational impact rather than their impact on the food system, while some orchards are either too young or are struggling with pest, disease, and weather related factors preventing them from seeing full yields.

Stories illustrating the value of the orchard always provide some heartening responses that help provide qualitative support for the impact of POP’s work. Repeating themes include educating and exposing people to new fruit (17), the availability of fresh fruits and herbs (11), people’s reactions to tasting something for the first time (5), the response of children to the environment and tasting fresh fruit (14), community members coming together (13), profound or healing experiences of gardening or the natural world (8), the urban orchard as a vehicle for talking about social issues (6), and the excitement that comes with seeing fruit trees mature and produce over time (7). Link here to read some of our favorite POP partner stories from 2018!

Community

POP partner orchards serve a wide array of constituents across the city of Philadelphia, which are primarily neighborhood and community based. Some orchards serve specific demographics within a neighborhood or are in a neighborhood consisting of fairly specific demographics, while others are located in incredibly diverse neighborhoods. Many orchard partners have child, youth, or young adult based programming. Some are wide open to any and all people, and some prefer to work with a specific population. Some orchards are located within rapidly changing neighborhoods.

On average, orchard partners self reported that 61.4 % of populations served qualify as low-income, which is close to the average of 65.1% reported last year. The change in reported low-income populations served may be a reflection of development and changing demographics in certain areas, a change in perception, or a change in estimation methods. Depending on the partner, these numbers were gathered via census data, FMNP voucher collection, HUD criteria, and well-informed estimates and guesses. This should be compared to other methods POP uses to assess demographics served, however our orchard partners know their communities the best and we will continue to value their reporting on demographics served.

Community Involvement

Our survey found that there were significant increases in regular attention, participation in regularly scheduled workdays, and the number of people participating in educational programming in our partner orchards. This past year 428 people participated monthly in orchard care (up from 2017’s 350), 2404 people participated at least once in orchard care, and 4,435 people tasted something grown in a POP partner orchard. Larger gains were seen with 7,190 people participating in education programs in POP orchards (an 84% increase from 2017’s 3,900) and 8,923 people using a POP partner orchard as community gathering space this year (a 65% increase). These improvements in just one season are encouraging indicators that our increasing number of orchard spaces and maturing orchards are reaching more people.

Partners reported that an all time high of 8923 people used POP orchards as community gathering space in 2018; this function also was most commonly rated as the highest value of orchard spaces by our community partners.

Yield Distribution

Distribution methods vary greatly from one group to another, as expected from distribution plans submitted in partner applications and the varying missions of partner orchards. Similar to past years, over half (51.5%) of all recorded harvest yields at POP partner orchards were made available to community members for free.  If averaging distribution methods across all partners, each partner weighted equally, over 70% of partner harvests are slated to be harvested directly by or distributed to community members for free either onsite or through outside emergency food service organizations. When accounting for production levels reported by each partner within their distribution methods, the scales are tipped heavily by 16 partners (30%) reporting much higher harvest weights than the majority of POP partners. It may be important to note that most of these 16 partners have well established plants, and thus more access to harvest, as well as some of the highest recorded rates of interaction with their orchards, enabling higher yield utilization and tracking of harvests.

Most of these percentages are very similar to last year’s, except that free harvest by community members has decreased, and the percentage sold at on-site farmstands has increased again for the 2nd year in a row. The increased entrepreneurial use of these orchard spaces is most likely an indication of increased youth and community engagement through jobs, internships, and a need to consider economic components as a factor in sustainability.  It should also be noted that the on-site farmstands led by our urban farm partners generally feature very affordable prices to accommodate their communities and a high percentage of sales are through FMNP or SNAP programs, meaning additional free distribution to Philadelphia residents in need.  

Orchard Production

Total orchard production of over 3580 pounds was reported in 2018, and the majority of produce was harvested by or distributed directly to community members for free. In total, 21 orchards answered that their spaces had higher yields than last season, while 16 reported lower yields, 11 were unsure, and 4 were too new to answer. It is difficult to accurately track yield between spaces that are used in a wide variety of ways by different partners, including public spaces, organizations with limited or no staff, and where free harvest from community members is encouraged. However, estimates continue to improve with each passing season. POP has taken measures to provide partners with volume-to-weight conversion charts to aid in estimation, notebooks for writing yield recording, gifting scales when asked for in annual tool lotteries. As always, new orchards will have little to no production and should follow POP’s advice to remove all first-year fruit to enhance tree growth. Despite challenges in accurate tracking at some sites, aggregate yields reported by our partners correlate to and reflect climatic factors, pest and disease pressure, frequency of planting, and sometimes people branching out into new ‘fruiterritory’.

Fruit Tree Production

Based on survey analysis of tree fruit production, figs, peaches/nectarines, Asian pears, plums and paw paws again had the highest yields, with pie cherries, plums, and apples seeing the most significant increases in yields since the previous season. These numbers are partially representative of the frequency at which POP partners plant these fruits, and numbers may be skewed by new or immature plantings. For example, despite most of our paw paw trees having a ways to go to reach maturity, paw paws show a higher harvest because they are the second most planted fruit tree next to Figs. Our most common fruits like apples, peaches, pears, cherries, and plums also face the most challenges in pest and disease, significantly impacting reported yields. While most nut trees planted at POP partner orchards are fairly immature, hardy almond yields are steady and should grow with more plantings in recent years. We saw a first recorded yield of hazelnuts, partially due to the addition of Saul High School’s mature plantings as a supported partner.

It is important to note  that 14 of the 39 full partner respondents are 4 seasons old or younger, meaning their fruit trees and berry bushes are immature or possibly too young to be bearing any fruit at all. Additionally, several POP Partner orchards are semi-public or entirely public. Whether intended to largely be harvested for free by community members or not (many of our partner orchards are), open public access mean a significant portion of harvests go unrecorded, which makes tracking orchard yields difficult. Weather was again a significant factor this year, but in a manner different from last. This year, a cold, cloudy, wet fall affected our fall harvests of European and Asian pears, apples and figs. Stone fruits, especially plums, saw a rebound in yields this year after being negatively affected by frost damage following early blooming due to a mild winter in 2017. It’s a good idea to plant a variety of fruits, so you hopefully end up with some production despite the challenges of a given season!

Plums were the fruit that rated most productive per tree in 2018, largely escaping crop losses due to early blooming that were problematic the previous year.

For the first time, we also attempted to quantify the average productivity of each type of fruit tree. While it is difficult for us to accurately do this across all partner sites, our data does inform us what plants are producing well and are utilized by partners, reflected in their yield reporting. One should note that there are a hand full of 11 year old orchards coming into fuller fruit bearing age, a few mature “supported POP partner” orchards planted prior to POP’s involvement, several 5 year old orchards beginning to bear small quantities, and orchards between those ages all being averaged here, each with different arrays of tree crops. Totaling yields and number of trees across partners over 5 years old, we see that plums are currently by far the highest yielding and utilized fruit or nut tree at POP partner sites. Pie cherries and peaches follow, with a next tier of productivity for sweet cherries, pawpaws, and the recently producing hardy almond. Closely following, persimmons, apricots, figs, and asian pears are reliable producers across partner sites above 5 years old. The fruit trees our partners struggle with the most to get good yields are apples, largely expected given they are the most pest and disease prone of any species we plant. Mulberries and jujubes are likely underutilized and chestnuts have a ways to grow before full bearing potential. While sweet cherries seem to be mostly for the birds in some partners’ cases, some of our more uncommon fruits may continue to be underutilized because, well, they may still be somewhat unfamiliar to many folks. They also tend to be smaller and may require some processing.

Berry and Fruiting Vine Production

Berry and perennial vegetable yields were tracked again and we saw an increase in total yields and/or usage of smaller orchard fruits in 2018. However, we did see a significant reduction in reported raspberry yields this year. The previous year, many berry and perennial vegetables had seen a dip in yield or usage, which some crops (strawberries, blackberries, currants, goumis, and hardy kiwi) rebounded from in 2018. Some yields persisting at lower than previously reported levels may be a reflection of a number of things, including strawberry patches that need rejuvenation, brambles needing thorough pruning, fungal issues that affect Ribes species, changes in tracking methods, or maturing fruit trees beginning to shade out lower growing berries.

Herbaceous Production

Culinary and medicinal herbs were tracked again this year and reported yields of our most common herbs, aside from comfrey, increased across the board in 2018! This is encouraging and may reflect efforts to provide further education on the benefits and usage of herbs in the orchard. We like to hear partners are making use of these herbs that also provide important ecological benefits to holistic orchard ecosystems; POP will continue to expand information and workshops on the subject. Fennel, mint, and lemon balm were among the highest reported yields, perhaps reflecting their tendency to spread and quickly increase their offerings. Has the comfrey craze subsided!? Time will tell…

POP partners reported increased harvest and use of culinary and medicinal herbs planted as companion plantings to fruit trees in food forests and orchards.

Of total respondents, 42% of partners would like more assistance in learning how to make use of their orchard plants, down from a high of 72% reporting the need in 2016. This is an indicator that POP’s educational outreach has improved confidence in harvest utilization, while perhaps there is still a deeper level of understanding to achieve. As orchard ecosystems mature, an understory of plants in abundance contribute to better overall maintenance and orchard value. The use of these plants for nutrition, medicine-making, fiber production, culinary flavoring, and value-added products is still uncharted or mildly dabbled in territory for many modern farmers, though a way of expanding yields.

The best ways to improve yields from all orchard plants and overall yields from orchards will be to increase capacity of orchard partners and community members in pest and disease management, regular orchard maintenance procedures, and yield utilization through educational programming, distribution of educational reference materials, and providing resources in the form of tools, pest and disease control supplies, and interpretive signage.

Production Challenges and Recommendations

When asked to rate challenges in the orchard from 1-5, responses from partners averaged out to 3, which is neither very easy nor very challenging. 30 respondents (57.7%) believe it was easier to maintain their orchards in 2018 than last year. It does seem that the orchards which are more mature and with more consistent caretakers across multiple seasons are becoming easier.

Many spaces that reported higher challenges are also undergoing staff transitions, which can naturally create some difficulties in the continuity of orchard care. According to survey responses, 14 of our partners are going through definite staffing transitions and there are two foreseeable additions to that number. While we are aware of additional staffing transitions not represented in survey responses, this clearly demonstrates high turnover rates within the field of urban agriculture which may relate to wages and organizations’ abilities to employ full time. We find POP support to be helpful in these times of transition, as we are able to provide orchard history, orientation, and training to staff that are onboarding to orchard care as a new role.

When comparing frequency of orchard care against rate of difficulty, an obvious takeaway is that we do see a correlation between challenges in orchard care and frequency of care. While those that report mild to moderate challenges fall across the board in terms of frequency of orchard care, all respondents rating orchard care as relatively or very easy tend to their spaces monthly, if not more often. Everyone reporting orchard care as ‘very easy’ tend to their spaces twice a month or weekly. This is understandably not possible for all partners, though we recommend monthly care to keep up on orchard needs.

The most frequently identified challenge is the amount of time available and other responsibilities. While this is the first time we asked, this outcome is no surprise. Understanding the nature of being split between many responsibilities and needing to be most effective with your time and effort, POP has plans to craft a list of recommended practices for community and volunteer organizing to share with orchard partners this coming season. Organizing robust volunteer work days for certain tasks like weeding and mulching may take a load off your back, as the old adage indicates: “many hands make light work”. With time constraints and other responsibilities in mind (often vegetable production taking priority for urban farm partners), organizing or sharing leadership in monthly volunteer workdays in addition to POP visits could significantly lessen orchard challenges.

The most commonly reported challenges in orchard production and percentage of orchards reporting these challenges were: available time and other responsibilities (59.6%), squirrels (48%), birds (40.3%), insect pests (34.6%), plant diseases (32.7%), weeds (32.7%) staffing transitions (26.9%), background knowledge (24%), and watering schedules (13.5%). POP sends out orchard care tips, pest and disease identification, as well as management information through our blog and email lists. When asked, 48% of partners are usually or always reading these tips, 36.5% are occasionally reading them, 4 never read them, and 4 newer stewards need to be added to our email list. With available time and other responsibilities being our biggest challenge and the modern age of overflowing email inboxes, this is understandable. It is important to note that all of our pest, disease, and orchard care tips are also available on our website, easily obtainable through our website’s search function. When polled, 46% of our partners do not utilize this resource when they discover an issue, though 21% often do, and 33% do occasionally. POP will continue to remind partners this is available and that guidance on most growing challenges is readily available.

In 2018 POP created and shared easy to use, photo-based scouting guides to help orchard partners identify and manage pest and disease challenges.

Pest and Disease Management

In 2018, POP released orchard pest and disease scouting guides for our most common and commonly affected fruits including apples, pears, cherries, peaches, and plums. While 37% (19) of survey respondents indicated they haven’t seen or used these yet, 60% (31) of respondents did see these and found them useful. When asked if we should produce more pest and disease guides, 85% of respondents said yes. In addition to supporting the production of additional pest and disease guides, 36 out of 52 respondents would like more guidance in holistic and organic sprays. Ultimately, a pest, disease, and spray calendar/guide could prove extremely useful, given the understanding that seasons vary and biological cycles of all players follow different timelines year to year.

Pest and disease identification and management is the most complicated aspect of orchard care, requiring the most knowledge, time and resources to become well versed in. Highest reported diseases by POP partners are the most common and easily identifiable diseases. Based on this years responses, it seems that fire blight may be spreading; peach leaf curl is getting addressed; brown rot, black rot, gummosis and aphids are mainstays; pest and disease knowledge could still improve; squirrels and birds are having a field day; and we’re safe from the pear shrew for now. On average, partners feel that 19% of their yields are lost to birds and squirrels, and while we haven’t thought of how to solve this aside from extensive netting systems, obsessive trapping and the encouragement of bird predation seen at commercial orchards, we continue to inform our partners about recommended approaches to pest and disease. POP partners estimated that 16.5% of their orchard yields were lost to pest and disease in 2018.

Expanding Orchard Education Efforts

In March 2018, POP hosted its 4-part Community Orchard Resilience Education (POPCORE) course for the second time as a 4-week offering. Additionally, three of the four classes were offered at least one other time throughout the year. Among our partner respondents, Winter Pruning is our highest attended class at 18 partners, while attendance declines to 14 at Pest and Disease, 6 at Plants and Usage, and up to 9 at Permaculture.

According to 2016 and 2017 surveys, at least 85% of respondents were interested in participating in these courses. However, 60% of this year’s respondents still haven’t attended any. Of those that haven’t attended, only four are not interested, with the remaining evenly split between definitely wanting to and perhaps wanting to attend. No one that has taken at least one class does not want to attend another, and all four survey respondents that attended the full course offering have indicated they would like to continue coming. While this survey is for partners only and our courses are offered to the broader public, this is a good indicator of the successes and challenges of the program. We are pleased to see those that have attended one or more classes are 100% interested in continuing. This indicates our educational offering is valued, and that perhaps our efforts to gather and incorporate feedback, update and include new content is inspiring return students.

POPCORE offerings will continue to be held in multiple formats at different locations and times of year to meet the availability needs of our partners. Producing educational video content is also a new goal for 2019.

Similar to 2017, there is an even split between a preference for a 4-week course in Winter and one course every 2-3 months. The March course has been more consistently well attended, as of course more growers are willing and able to attend a workshop in the off season. Day and time preferences were similarly split, with weekday evenings and Saturday afternoons being the most preferred. POP will continue to offer POPCORE courses in both formats and with both timing options to try to accommodate and reach the most participants.

We asked our partners “Considering your natural tendencies, commitments, and accessibility, what is the best way for you to learn?” If you lump ratings of “good”, “great”, and “best” together, each mode of learning “works” for at least 50% of our partners, which reflects a natural spread of prefered learning modalities, tendencies, and personal availability. The #1 preferred mode of learning is hands on, working for 93% of responding partners. Hands on workshops were also highest category rated “best”, by 69% of partners. Perhaps not so surprisingly Philly, the 2nd most popular mode of learning was experimenting on one’s own with 83% happy to learn in the classroom of life. The next most popular mode of learning, a sign of the times, is video, which will work for 77% of our partners, followed by in person lecture at 75%. Published online materials work for 63% of partners, while hard copies and infographics both work for 57%. That said, there is a segment of partners that each of these categories doesn’t work for, and we should continue to diversify the modes we provide educational materials and resources through.

The main barriers to participation in continuing education are cost, location, and time of day. 30 POP partner respondents indicated they are associated with a building or outdoor space that could host an evening or weekend class, with 9 additional partners potentially able to extend the opportunity towards us. The ability to utilize these resources plays a large role in our offering of POPCORE and POP HarvestED workshops both in central and dispersed locations in Philadelphia on a sliding scale. Continuing to vary locations and times of workshops will make POP educational offerings available to the most people possible, while posting electronic materials as downloads or video and reminding partners these are available to help this information spread.

POP Harvest and HarvestED

Expanding our effort to highlight and educate partners and the public about unusual fruit, we piloted the POP HarvestED program in 2018 as an extension of our POP Harvest gleaning program. This new education program brings in community teachers to lead gleaning workshops focused on the end use of lesser known fruits, nuts, and herbs that are widely available through POP orchards and the Philadelphia region.
This season we held four of these workshops on the topics of Ginkgo berry processing, Trifoliate Orange based fire cider, Herbal Oxymels, and Black Walnut processing for edibility, fabric dye, wood stain and medicinal properties. When asked, 87.5% of partner respondents would like to attend these workshops in the future whereas a similar amount have not attended any yet. This is an encouraging percentage, while only 42% of partner indicated they would like more assistance learning how to use the plants in their orchards. This may indicate POP partners are getting to know their plants, and that there is interest in this model of hands on community education with more unusual, yet abundantly available harvests. We intend to continue this series with 8-10 workshops in 2019. Suggested topics predominantly include nut and herb usage, but also a variety of specific plant care intensives, in-depth harvest preservation methods, propagation, permaculture, and tree tapping are desired.

The pilot POP HarvestEd workshop series this year included an event harvesting trifoliate oranges at Historic Strawberry Mansion for use in making Fire Cider.

Organizational Improvement

On a scale from 1 to 10, respondents’ average rating of POP as an overall organization was a 9.2 (a tenth of a point higher than last season)! Partners continue to believe that POP staff are supportive, adaptable, and easy to reach, though there are always ways that we can improve. Some partner suggestions or desires include increased engagement through more frequent visits, hands on assistance, check ins and classroom time, increased number of volunteer orchard liaisons, increased staffing, more frequent plant health checks, collaborative facilitation of partnership and community building, spray tips and services, more plants, and help finding mulch. A number of partners wouldn’t change a thing and think “continuing to do what we do together will bear much fruit”. Pun intended.

POP exists to support our Philadelphia orchard partners, primarily through educational programs and materials; hands on assistance in the form of consulting visits and volunteer workdays; and access to design services, plant materials, and tools & equipment. Our model and current resources allow us to do our best to visit each orchard quarterly, additionally on an as needed basis, while seeking to empower our partners through educational offerings. Due to limitations of staff capacity, it is unlikely that we will be able to visit most partner sites more than quarterly, but a solution for sites desiring more engagement may be in the orchard liaison system. By growing this program, POP staff hours can be multiplied to increase support across the city through a growing network of trained volunteer orchard liaisons. This alongside community and volunteer organizing recommendations may go a long way, while continuing to build out niche reference materials and workshops.

Dedicating staff time to implementing and reporting back on a pilot program of more intensive pest and disease management practices at a few partner orchards will be a worthwhile step to take. As POP, our effort is best served empowering our partners to manage their spaces confidently as caretakers through our programs in the most effective and accessible ways that address a number of preferred learning methods. While POP provides information and experiences in a variety of ways, the production of video is a mode of instruction POP has not yet pursued. Survey responses indicated instructional videos would work for a majority of partners as supplementary learning opportunity, which may enable us to reach partners for whom attending workshops is a challenge. POP aims to pilot new educational video content in 2019.

When asked “what would make 2019 better?” 3 or more partners self identified the following strategies or areas of improvement: more volunteers or staff, planning and leadership efforts, setting a schedule for one’s self, assistance identifying something, physical infrastructure, compost and signage. POP has developed plant signs for most of orchard and food forest plants we plant, though they have not yet been widely distributed. We are in the process of further developing these signs and identifying the most cost effective and weather/sun proof options. 34 POP partners that don’t have plant id signs want them and 6 partners need sign replacements. Additionally, we’ve also developed signs to explain what food forests and community orchard are. 35 partners want a food forest or community orchard sign, 11 have them, and 6 are uninterested.

POP has steadily grown its staff, interns, liaisons, dedicated volunteers, and confident partners, as the capacity and understanding of what it takes to properly maintain orchard ecosystems in our network improves with each year. Despite the notion that orchards and perennial ecosystems are slow to produce and take care of themselves, the amount of time needed to learn care of the plants and ecosystems we work with, manage a range of growing challenges, and to harvest maximum yields is equally as great or greater. Patience, routine, time for observation, and preventing problems rather than treating them could be valuable, applicable orchard and life lessons. As such, much of the work POP pursues is attempting to shorten that span of time and bring awareness through hands on experiences and informational resources. POP continues to refine our efforts, programs, and support services based on the valued input of our orchard partners across the city.

This blog post was written by Orchard Director Michael Muehlbauer with input 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: phillyorchards.org/donate.

Aphids and Fruit Trees

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Aphids are a common pest an a wide variety of fruit trees, shrubs, vines, vegetables, and more!

Leaves curled end to end are the most common sign of aphid damage. 

Ants in your tree are another sure sign of aphid infestation, as their only interest in climbing trees is to harvest honeydew (sweet aphid droppings).  The one exception is fig trees, where they can sometimes also feed on overripe fruit.
Aphids are tiny insects that suck sap from leaves, causing plant stress than can result in curled and distorted leaves, flowers, and fruit.  They can also sometimes spread viruses and their honeydew droppings can lead to sooty mold on leaves. Aphids come in many colors: green, black, gray, pink, yellow, some even a fluffy white.  Minor infestations often go away without any extra effort, but more severe cases may require management.  Aphids affect many vegetables and ornamental plants as well as fruit trees.
Image result for aphids

Aphids are tiny insects that come in many colors. 

APHID CONTROL

Spray Water.  A strong stream of water can knock aphids off leaves and greatly reduce their populations.  Be sure to hit the bottom of the leaves, as that’s where most are found.  As always, avoid wetting leaves during the heat of day.

Beneficial Insects.  Plant a pollinator garden to attract a variety of native predators and parasites to keep aphids and other pest insects populations under control.  For bad infestations, you might also consider releasing purchased insects like lacewings, aphid midges, parasitic wasps, or ladybugs.  Read our article on insect releases here:

Rosy Apple Aphids are one of the more common species affecting apple trees.

Dormant Oil.  If you have a lot of aphid problems this season, consider spraying a dormant oil on your trees in late winter of next year.  This is the most effective means of smothering overwintering eggs and thus reducing pest populations for the next growing season.  Read our article on dormant oil here:

Neem Oil.  For treatment of bad aphid infestations during the growing season, consider spraying neem oil at 2% concentration.  Read our article about neem oil application here:


This blog post prepared by POP 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: phillyorchards.org/donate

POP Orchard Partner Feature: 5000 Cedars & Jewish Farm School

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A garden for all ages, even the little ones get their hands in on the action!

For the past nearly six years, Nati Passow and Rachel Tali Kaplan of 5000 Cedars and Jewish Farm School have been working to build a bountiful garden, communal gathering space, and home-scale food forest from three de-fenced, vacant lots in West Philadelphia. Their project is part of a growing movement of de-fencing advocates that work in community alongside neighbors to join parcels of land for regenerative food growing and community organizing practices.

A candle-lit Shabbat dinner in the garden

The project began in 2012 when the couple bought the vacant lot next door to their home and began seeding with neighbors a vision for a neighborhood teaching and feeding garden. After a few years of rubble removal, building and reorganizing, the space now serves as a hub for community potlucks, homesteading classes offered through the Jewish Farm School, and other religious and secular celebrations like Shabbat dinners and Passover seders tied to the Jewish agricultural year.

Community members welcome the Sabbath with prayers and song in the JFS garden and orchard

“More than anything,” Passow shared, we wanted to create a demonstration of what people in the city can do on the home-scale, or a little bigger, within the same ballpark. We are excited to model that with this space and invite passerby to eat some food and learn about the plants.”

In July 2016, the Philadelphia Orchard Project took on 5000 Cedars & JFS as a supported orchard partner site.  POP assisted in developing an orchard design and installation began in fall 2016 – adding plum and fig trees out front, in addition to a pie cherry, paw paws, blueberries, blackberries, chokeberry, currant and gooseberry. Local mushroom farm Mycopolitan also joined on board – inoculating  Stropharia wine cap mushroom spawn amongst the blackberries to boost soil fertility, as they’ve done through several other POP sites. In fall 2017 the orchard was transformed into a food forest with additional plantings of diverse perennial flowers, herbs, and groundcovers.  

Phil Forsyth prepares fruit trees for planting at the site

“It’s truly been a community effort,” Passow said. “Volunteer groups have helped transform the space during cleanups and build days, and every time we host a gathering or class, our mission gets stronger.” Since its founding, 5000 Cedars and JFS have provided platforms for local teachers and ag educators to share their knowledge with the community geared around urban sustainability and resilience – offering such classes as small scale backyard vegetable production, composting, medicine making, and more.

Nati Passow and volunteers plant native paw paw fruit tree seedlings

“We hope that when people walk into the space they’re amazed at what they see and the possibility of what you can achieve. We’re well on our way,” Passow said. 

To learn more about Jewish Farm School, their mission of using food and agriculture as tools for social justice and spiritual mindfulness, and to view their list of Shtetl Skills workshops for ongoing educational offerings, visit their website here.

This POP Partner Feature was written by 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: phillyorchards. org/donate.

Plant Spotlight: The Plucky Mulberry (Morus)

Posted on Categories Blog, Harvesting, Home, Plant Profiles, Plants, POPharvests, Propagation, Recipes, Wild EdiblesTags , , , , , , , , ,

Written by 2016 POP Intern, Lucia Kearney. 

Despite their reputation as a weed tree, many people in both urban and rural environments have very fond childhood memories of mulberries!  My own past is filled deliciously with mulberries. When I was a kid, my parents worked in Manayunk. On days when there was no school, I’d go to work with them, and in the summertime I was always happy to see the mulberry tree growing by the parking lot. At their office picnic in Chestnut Hill, there was mulberry tree in the front yard where my brother and scores of other office kids and I would stuff ourselves full of fruit. There was a mulberry tree in our neighbor’s yard when we moved to the suburbs, and mulberry trees by Henderson Field. Needless to say, mulberries are something that I look forward to and thoroughly enjoy every year.

Behold, the wonderful mulberry!
Behold, the wonderful mulberry!

Description

Mulberries are a temperate and subtropical group of trees and shrubs – just walking around Philadelphia, you’re sure to encounter several different species. White or Common Mulberries (Morus alba) originate from China, Black Mulberries (Morus nigra) from Western Asia, Russian Mulberries (Morus alba ‘Tatarica’) from Northern China, and Red Mulberries (Morus rubra) come from the Eastern United States.  Many of the mulberry trees found in the city are wild seedlings that are a cross between White and Red Mulberry species.

Mulberries and people have been pals for a long long time; they actually figure prominently in a Babylonian myth about the tragic lovers Pyramus and Thisbe. In a story of forbidden love very similar to that of Romeo and Juliet, Pyramus and Thisbe, forbidden by their families to marry, agree to meet beneath a mulberry tree. Thisbe arrives first, but flees after seeing a lioness, mouth bloody from a recent kill, accidentally leaving her veil behind. Pyramus, arriving later, sees veil and bloody-mouthed lion and, assuming that Thisbe has been eaten, kills himself. Thisbe returns to the scene to find the body of Pyramus, and kills herself out of grief. Their blood is said to have stained the previously white fruit red.

Thisbe & Pyramus
Thisbe & Pyramus

Mulberries are generally irregularly shaped, bushy-headed trees, with trunks that often lean. Size depends largely on the species – White Mulberries are usually 30 to 50 feet in height and Red Mulberries can reach as high as 70 feet. Black Mulberries tend to be much smaller, occasionally reaching 30 feet in height. Longevity varies as well; while Black Mulberries can bear fruit for hundreds of years, Red Mulberries rarely make it past 75 years. Leaves are alternate, heart-shaped, or lobed, with what looks like serrated edges and pointed tips.

Different Kinds of Mulberry Leaves
Different Kinds of Mulberry Leaves

Flowers often go unnoticed unless you’re looking for them – they are small and feathery and roughly resemble the fruit that they’ll go onto produce. Some varieties are dioecious (meaning that trees are either male or female) while others are monoecious (meaning trees have both male and female parts). Trees are wind-pollinated, no cross-pollination is necessary, and some cultivars will set fruit without any pollination at all.

Flowers from a Red Mulberry Tree
Flowers from a Red Mulberry Tree

Fruits also vary in color, size, and ripening time. Confusingly, the color of the fruit does not reliably identify the species; White Mulberries (in spite of the story of Thisbe and Pyramus) can have white, lavender, or black fruit; Red Mulberries are deep red to almost black, and Black Mulberries are usually large, dark, and juicy. Berries tend to resemble raspberries and blackberries in form, though they are generally longer and narrower. The Himalayan Mulberry – which I’m dying to try – produces berries that can reach several inches in length! White and Red Mulberries ripen in late spring, while Black mulberries ripen in summer to late summer. All mulberries ripen over a period of around six weeks rather than all at once, which is good news for us mulberry lovers.

White and Lavender Mulberries
White Mulberries can bear white, lavender, or even black fruit!

Red Mulberries
Red Mulberry fruit can be red or black.

Black Mulberries
Black Mulberry fruit is usually aptly named!

Morus macroura, also known, amongst other things, as the Himalayan Mulberry
Morus macroura, also known, amongst other things, as the Himalayan Mulberry

Uses

Mulberries are actually the sweetest of all fruit!  Fruits can be eaten raw or cooked, and can also be made into wine, cordials, jams, tarts, cobblers, or tossed onto oatmeal or cooked into pancakes. Fruits can also be dried, and made into fruit leather if combined with other, more fibrous fruit. The possibilities are endless; an image search for ‘mulberry recipes’ comes up with dazzling results, I promise you. Be aware that the fruit doesn’t keep long raw – once picked, it should be eaten or cooked within a few days (this is one reason why you don’t generally see mulberries in grocery stores). Also take care while picking black mulberries as their juice will stain hands and clothing (and whatever else you get on them) purple; as such, mulberry juice can also be used as a natural dye. In China, mulberry juice is produced commercially on a large scale and is quite popular; the juice stays fresh for several months without preservatives.

A Black and White Mulberry Ricotta Tart
A Black and White Mulberry Ricotta Tart

Almond and Mulberry Tart
Almond and Mulberry Tart

Mulberry Ice Cream
Mulberry Ice Cream

The leaves – when prepared properly – can also be eaten (please read disclaimer at the bottom of this article before consuming any mulberry leaves). In the Middle East, mulberry leaves are stuffed with ground chicken or lamb. Check out a recipe for chicken stuffed mulberry leaves here. Take note that raw, white mulberry leaves contain toxins that can irritate the stomach and skin, and are said to be slightly hallucinogenic. However, once steamed, the leaves can be safely eaten and used in pies, lasagnas, and salads. Dried mulberry leaf powder – which is high in protein and carbohydrates, and has a distinct, fragrant smell – is used as an additive in buns, bread, cakes, and biscuits in China. A tea can also be made from the dried leaves.

Chicken Stuffed Mulberry Leaves
Chicken Stuffed Mulberry Leaves

Famously, mulberries (usually White Mulberries) are cultivated as food for silkworms; silkworms exclusively eat the leaves of certain species of mulberry (they don’t, for example, eat black mulberries), and in China and Japan, many mulberries are grown solely for this purpose. One of the reasons that White Mulberries and their hybrids are so common in the United States is that they were originally imported to try to start a silk industry in the 1830’s. It takes around 33-40lbs of fresh mulberries to produce just 2.2lbs of fresh cocoon.uses,

 Silkworm Feeding on a Mulberry Leaf + Cocoons

Silkworm Feeding on a Mulberry Leaf + Cocoons

The stems and stem powder are also a good medium for mushroom production; wood ear mushrooms and the medicinal fungus Ganoderma lucidum are produced on mulberry logs or powder.

All parts of the mulberry contain a milky sap that can be used to make a type of rubber, and several species have fibrous bast fibers beneath the bark that can be used to make rope or paper. The wood is a deep yellow, hard, strong, durable, flexible, and coarse grained and is valued for carving, inlays in cabinet work, and for the crafting of musical instruments.

A Bowl Made from Mulberry Wood
A Bowl Made from Mulberry Wood

Birds adore mulberries, so some orchardists plant mulberries as a trap crop to tempt birds away from whatever fruit they’re producing.  In particular, mulberry fruit season overlaps with that of cherries and blueberries, which are the crops most often lost to birds.  Russian mulberries – which are hardier and whose blossoms are not as easily damaged by high winds – are often used as windbreaks.

Nutritional Information/Medicinal Uses

NOTE: The following information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Please read our full edible/medicinal use disclaimer at the end of this article and seek medical advice from a qualified professional before using a new plant in your diet. 

Mulberries are rich in carotene, and in vitamins B1, B2, and C. In fact, one cup of raw mulberries contains 85% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C! They are also high in iron, vitamin K1, potassium, and vitamin E. Mulberries also contain anthocyanins, a family of antioxidants that may help to lower cholesterol prevent hard disease, and rutin, a powerful antioxidant that may help to protect against cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

Traditionally, mulberries have been used as a mild laxative. The USDA reports that leaves from the white mulberry tree have been used to treat sore throats, eye infections, and colds. Mulberry leaves are rich in gamma-aminobutylic acid, which is effective in reducing high blood pressure, as well as in alanine, which is useful in easing hangovers. The American Diabetes Association has also noted that mulberry leaves may help to reduce blood sugar levels in people suffering from type-2 diabetes.

Propagation/Cultivation

Considered by some to be a weed tree, it’s not surprising that mulberries are often disease-free and tend to thrive in challenging conditions and poor soils. All species prefer full sun in cooler climates, but will tolerate partial shade. While mulberries prefer moist soil, they are drought resistant once established, and require little to no fertilization. They are also tolerant of groundcover and can grow well with grass beneath.

There are named varieties of all species of mulberry selected for their fruit quality.  The Philadelphia Orchard Project has primarily planted the variety ‘Illinois Everbearing’, which is known for its large, tasty, seedless fruit and long season of harvest. Although Black Mulberries are the species most commonly grown for their fruit around the world, they are only marginally hardy in Philadelphia (zone 7).  POP is now experimenting with planting some dwarf varieties of Black Mulberry in more protected locations.

Mulberries can also be propagated via seed – which requires 16 weeks of stratification – or by hardwood cuttings made in the winter, grafting/chip budding, layering, or air layering. Some species can also be propagated from softwood cuttings in the summer. Using mycorrhizal fungi spores as a cuttings dip reportedly increases the success rate of propagation.

Young trees should be planted between 25-35ft apart in the spring or fall. Some formative pruning can be done in the first few years to establish a strong 4-5 branch framework; otherwise, pruning should only be done to remove dead or crossing branches. Pruning should be done in the wintertime while trees are dormant. If trees are being used as a windbreak, they should be planted 8-20ft apart, and can withstand clipping if needed. White mulberry leaves can also be grown as a vegetable crop. To do this, trees are planted densely in rows and coppiced annually at a height of 2-3 feet. Fresh leaves can then be picked throughout the growing season.

Coppiced White Mulberries Interplanted with Nitrogen-Fixing Acacias in Las Canadas, Mexico
Coppiced White Mulberries Interplanted with Nitrogen-Fixing Acacias in Las Canadas, Mexico

And so this year let’s give thanks for the hardy and abundant mulberry! I’m looking forward to making many more mulberry memories, and I hope you all are too.

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: phillyorchards.org/donate.

Disclaimer

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.

SOURCES

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/black-mulberry-bushes-need-two-plants-pollinate-64863.html

http://www.mofga.org/Publications/MaineOrganicFarmerGardener/Summer2003/Mulberries/tabid/1487/Default.aspx

http://www.gardenguides.com/104541-tell-mulberry-tree-male-female.html

https://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/mulberry.html

http://www.livestrong.com/article/479240-how-to-eat-mulberry-leaves-in-a-salad/ 

https://immortalitea.com/blogs/immortal-musings/139108423-are-white-mulberry-leaves-safe-to-eat

http://sharonglasgow.com/2013/06/mulberry-harvesting-10-ideas-of-what-to-do-with-them/

https://authoritynutrition.com/foods/mulberries/

http://www.greenprophet.com/2013/05/stuffed-mulberry-leaves-recipe/

http://www.coldstreamfarm.net/russian-mulberry-morus-alba.html

http://www.tradewindsfruit.com/content/himalayan-mulberry.htm

http://tcpermaculture.com/site/2015/06/02/permaculture-plants-mulberries/

PICTURES

  1. http://www.countryfarm-lifestyles.com/mulberry-trees.html
  2. https://prezi.com/s4abuj_nq8s_/pyramus-and-thisbe/
  3. http://tcpermaculture.com/site/2015/06/02/permaculture-plants-mulberries/
  4. http://www.rnr.lsu.edu/plantid/species/redmulberry/redmulberry.htm
  5. http://www.familylearningadventure.com/2015/07/breaking-my-own-rules-and-discovering.html
  6. http://www.tellmeallaboutyourday.com/2011/05/10/red-mulberries/
  7. http://www.specialtyproduce.com/produce/White_Mulberries_8902.php
  8. https://typicalgardener.wordpress.com/2014/09/30/mulberry-red-shahtoot-or-morus-macroura/
  9. http://www.growplants.org/growing/morus-macroura
  10. http://the3foragers.blogspot.com/2011/06/mulberry-recipe-black-and-white.html
  11. http://foodformyfamily.com/recipes/mulberry-almond-frangipane-tart-contentment
  12. http://firstwefeast.com/eat/2015/04/alice-waters-chez-panisse-career-changing-dishes
  13. http://www.greenprophet.com/2012/11/iraqi-stuffed-grape-leaves-recipe/
  14. http://cityfurnitureblog.blogspot.com/2013/02/mulberry-tree-facts.html
  15. http://www.woodworking.org/InfoExchange/viewtopic.php?t=31273
  16. http://www.perennialsolutions.org/cuba-mass-planting-moringa-and-mulberry

Plant Spotlight: Meet the Pawpaw! (Asimina triloba)

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

By 2016 POP Intern, Lucia Kearney.

I first encountered the pawpaw one late-September day when my former elementary school art teacher came to my parents’ house for dinner. She and her husband had gone foraging for them on Swarthmore College’s campus before heading our way. I was perplexed; these fruits were native to the area, growing right down the street, and I’d never even heard of them. The fruits had yellow-green skin, and were somewhat lumpy and filled with large, dark seeds that were easy to squeeze out. The texture I found strange–it’s often been described as “custard-like”–and the flavor was very particular. Many say that pawpaws have a rich banana flavor with hints of pineapple or mango, an observation reflected in the many nicknames the pawpaw has earned in North America, including the Hoosier Banana, the Poor-Man’s Banana, and, my personal favorite, the Banango. The late-September day remains the only time I’ve ever tried a pawpaw, but after reading up on them for this blog post, I’m looking forward to trying them again when they’re ripe this September.

Paw Paw tree at the Tertulias Orchard in North Philadelphia.
Paw Paw tree at the Tertulias Orchard in North Philadelphia.

The common pawpaw has the great distinction of bearing the largest fruit native to North America. Pawpaws were first documented in the 1541 report of the Spanish de Soto expedition who encountered Native Americans who were cultivating pawpaws east of the Mississippi River. They grow in most of the eastern United States, as well as in southeastern Canada. These trees usually grow to be between 10 and 26 feet in height, though some have been known to reach up to 40 feet. As a result of their long, gracefully drooping leaves, Martin Crawford describes the pawpaw as having a “sleepy” look.

The Sleepy Pawpaw
The Sleepy Pawpaw

Their flowers are a sight to behold, unlike any other flowers on POP’s orchard trees, and seemingly less delicate. They begin bloom in mid-April, and many are just emerging right now. Flower buds form only on one-year-old wood, and each flower has six petals (three inner and three outer) that start out green, turn brown, and then finally transition to a dark red. Interestingly, pawpaws are not pollinated by bees, but rather by flies and beetles. As such, flowers have a faint but unpleasant smell. In order to increase rates of pollination, you can hand pollinate by using a small paintbrush to take pollen from the flowers on one tree and apply it to the flowers of another tree.  Some growers will even lay decomposing animal carcasses beneath pawpaws in order to attract more carrion flies! Interplanting with other smelly carrion flowers (such as the native Wild Ginger, Asarum canadense) is also a wise strategy.

A pawpaw flower
A pawpaw flower

A single flower can produce a cluster of several fruits. While the pawpaws that I tried were of a particular wild variety, fruits are usually oblong and sometimes banana-shaped. Wild pawpaws average about 3.6 inches in length by 1.4 inches in width, while selected cultivars can get to be up to six inches by 3 inches. The skin is usually thin and smooth and easily bruised, while the flesh varies from white to yellow-orange (it should be noted, though, that white-fleshed varieties tend to be bitter and inedible).

Pawpaw fruit
Pawpaw fruit

Uses

NOTE: The following information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Please read our full edible/medicinal use disclaimer at the end of this article and seek medical advice from a qualified professional before using a new plant in your diet. 

The best thing to do with pawpaws is, of course, to eat them! Pawpaws can be eaten raw or cooked and can be used in salads, for making preserves, pies, cookies, and cakes, amongst other things. Apparently, chilled pawpaw was George Washington’s favorite desert! To loosen the seeds, roll the fruit between your hands. You can also cut them in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon, or peel them like bananas. The internet is filled with recipes for pawpaws, including this New York Times piece on Pawpaw Pudding (that I fully intend on making this Thanksgiving). Asked if there were various other fruits or vegetables that could be used to replace pawpaw, Appalachian chefs told the author again and again, “forget it, there’s nothing like a pawpaw.” For more recipes, check out Kentucky State University’s multitude of recipes here, including pawpaw cream pie, pawpaw custard, and pawpaw ice cream.

Pawpaw pudding
Pawpaw pudding

Pawpaws are wonderfully nutritious. They are higher in unsaturated fats, proteins, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamin C, and many other minterals and amino acids than peaches or apples.

There have been some reported allergic reactions to the fruit, mainly to substances in the fruit’s skin, and especially in fruits that have not completely ripened. The seeds are inedible and, in fact, were traditionally crushed and used as an emetic, as well as to treat head lice. They also make beautiful seed beads.

The long, brown beads in this necklace are pawpaw seeds!
The long, brown beads in this necklace are pawpaw seeds!

The bark contains natural pesticides called acetogenins. Interestingly, the larvae of the Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly feed exclusively on the young leaves of pawpaws (though they usually do so in numbers small enough as to be no problem for the plants). These butterflies are not only immune to the acetogenins but carry them with them once they become butterflies, rendering the butterflies unpalatable to birds and other predators.

Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar Eating a Pawpaw leaf
Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar Eating a Pawpaw leaf

Zebra Swallowtail
Zebra Swallowtail

Two substances obtained from the bark – asimicin and trilobacin – are currently being tested as anticancer agents. The inner-bark of the pawpaw is stringy and fibrous; traditionally it was stripped from branches in the early spring to be used to make fishing nets and ropes.

Growing Pawpaws

While pawpaws in the wild often clonally propagate via suckers, cultivated varieties are usually started from seed. Seeds should be stratified at 35˚ to 40˚ Fahrenheit for between 60 and 100 days before sowing. Make sure that seeds don’t dry out or freeze, as this can kill the dormant embryo. After stratification, soak the seeds in warm water for 24 hours, and then plant about 1 inch deep in deep containers. Heat the containers at about 80˚ from the bottom. Germination takes around 2-3 weeks, and a shoot should emerge after around 2 months. Growth is slow for the first 1-2 years.

Pawpaw seeds
Pawpaw seeds

Root cuttings are often successful as well. Plant 6inch lengths of tap root deep in the ground in the spring. New plants will emerge in the following season.

Named cultivars are often propagated via chip-budding or grafting.

Plant out baby pawpaw trees when they are between 12 and 40 inches tall. They have long and brittle taproots, so it’s important to take care while transplanting. Space trees 13 feet apart and mulch well; pawpaws do not like competition, especially from grass. Once planted, pawpaws require little attention; pruning should be limited to dead or crossing branches, though the occasional heading cut can be used to shorten limbs and encourage lateral growth. Suckers begin to emerge once the trees start bearing fruit and can pop up as far as 10 feet from the parent tree. These can be cut, mown, or left to grow. Trees grow about 16in/year, and should be about 5ft tall after 4-6 years. Cross-pollination is necessary for fruit production, so it’s best to have more than one tree. If necessary, hand pollination can increase yields. They also grow well with walnuts.

Baby pawpaw saplings
Baby pawpaw saplings

Pawpaws require a minimum of 160 frost-free days and like rich, moist, well-drained soil that is slightly acidic (ideally with a pH between 5.0 and 7.0). They need plenty of water through the summer months – at least 32 inches of rainfall per year – and will tolerate partial shade, especially in hot climates. They often form thickets in the woods beneath tall, shade canopy trees. However, more sunlight will result in more fruit.

Pawpaws are fairly free of pests and diseases, and deer and rabbits leave the leaves and bark alone. However, deer, squirrels, foxes, birds, and other critters will eat the fruit. Pawpaws do sometimes fall prey to the larva of the small Tortricid moth, which can burrow into the flowers causing them to wither, blacken, and drop, potentially lowering fruit yields significantly.

Tortricid moth larva
Tortricid moth larva

Tortricid moth adult
Tortricid moth adult

Fully-ripe fruit will fall to the ground, so it’s usually best to pick them a little bit early and allow them to ripen indoors. Take care when harvesting, as fruits are easily bruised. They can be stored for many weeks in the cold, but should be eaten within 3 days when ripe and left at room temperature. Trees produce every year, about 20-30 fruits per tree, though some varieties may produce double that.

Happy pawpawing!

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: phillyorchards.org/donate.

Disclaimer

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.

Sources

Trees for Gardens, Orchards and Permaculture by Martin Crawford

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asimina_triloba

http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016961-pawpaw-pudding

https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/ksu-pawpaw/cooking.html

http://www.veggiegardeningtips.com/foraging-for-wild-pawpaw-fruits-in-pennsylvania/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acetogenin

http://www.pawpaw.kysu.edu/pawpaw/ppg.htm

Pictures

Picture 1 – Philadelphia Orchard Project photo

Picture 2 – http://ediblelandscaping.com/products/trees/Pawpaws/

Picture 3 – http://www.carolinanature.com/trees/astr.html

Picture 4 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asimina_triloba

Picture 5 – http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016961-pawpaw-pudding

Pictures 6 & 7 – https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&ved=0ahUKEwjcs6KdxKrMAhVIcj4KHRc4BiUQjxwIAw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bettyhallphotography.com%2Fzebra-swallowtail-butterfly%2F&psig=AFQjCNH_GzJJg6BZ001-VqEWWwqUFqD64Q&ust=1461699260821472

Picture 8 – https://www.flickr.com/photos/starmer/2916765037

Picture 9 – http://www.blossomnursery.com/pawpaw_baby_superior_seedlings.htm

2015 POP Orchard Partner Survey Summary

Posted on Categories Blog, Home, POP OrchardsTags , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In all, 45 of 55 total POP partners (82%) participated in our annual Orchard Partner Survey in November and December 2015.  As a thank you, POP is distributing a requested orchard item, including pruning tools, pole harvesters, produce scales, and neem oil to all participating partners.

ORCHARD VALUE

Once again, the highest percentage of respondents rated “Educational Opportunities” in orchards as having the “highest value” (47.9%). Partners also commonly placed Highest Value and High Value on orchard contributions to “Community Health and Nutrition” and “Environmental Impact” (both 37.5%). While 29% of respondents placed high value on their orchards for food production and distribution, this category also had the highest incidence of “No value” and “low value” selections. Similar to past years, this relatively lower rating for the value of food production and distribution is somewhat distorted by responses from younger and newly planted orchards that have not yet come into full production (a process that can take 5 years). Some older sites are having trouble seeing good yields due to improper harvesting, pests, and diseases; and some small spaces with relatively few trees will obviously be more valued for their educational impact rather than their impact on the food system. However, many of our partner sites with more established sites or larger numbers of plants (Bartram’s, Carousel House, SHARE, Historic Fair Hill, Strawberry Mansion, Mill Creek Farm, Preston’s Paradise, Earthskeepers, Pentridge) rated food production and distribution with high and highest value.

POP's community partners report that they place the highest value on the educational opportunities their orchards provide!
POP’s community partners report that they place the highest value on the educational opportunities their orchards provide!

We also requested stories from our partners illustrating the value of their orchard spaces (link here to read some of the stories).  The most common themes of these responses were the value of educating and exposing people to freshly grown fruit, the reactions that people have to tasting things for the first time, the lessons involved in learning to care for their orchard spaces, and the ways in which children respond to the spaces. More than half of all respondents also took time to write into at least one of their freeform answers how thankful they are for the work that POP does for its partners and their communities.

ORCHARD USAGE

More than 1,800 people participated at least once in orchard care during the 2015 season, and 5,740 people tasted something grown in a POP partner orchard–a 126% increase since 2014. 5,810 people used a POP partner orchard as a gathering space–a 38% increase since 2014. 3,480 people participated in educational programs at orchards, averaging 76 per site (down from 87 in 2015). A 126% increase in the total number of people who have tried an orchard fruit and a 38% increase in the number of people using orchards as gathering spaces in just one season is a very exciting indicator that our greater number of orchard spaces and maturing orchards are reaching more people.

Fair Hill POW 2015
Philadelphia Orchard Week harvest festival at Historic Fair Hill.  Our partners reported that over 5800 people used POP orchards as gathering spaces in 2015.

YIELD DISTRIBUTION

Each of POP’s partners has a different distribution plan which they make clear to us during the application process. In 2015, 29% of orchard yield was harvested for free by community members, 25% was harvested by orchard workers for free distribution to the community, 9% was sold at farmers’ markets, 8% was sold in on-site farmstands, 8% was lost to pests and disease,  8% went unharvested, 3% was added to CSA shares, 3% was turned into value-added products, and 7% was distributed by other means (to emergency food centers, for example.)

ORCHARD PRODUCTION

It is demonstrably difficult to accurately track yield within spaces visited by so many people and where free harvest from community members is encouraged. However, estimates of yield are getting better with each passing season, and POP has taken measures to provide partners with reminders and methods to improve their tracking. Based on survey analysis of tree fruits, peaches, nectarines, apples, Asian pears, plums, sweet cherries, and European pears produced the highest yields, and all tree fruits had significantly higher harvests reported than 2014.  The only decline in reported tree fruit yield was for serviceberries (which could be due to a failure to track yield or the prevalence of rust disease on some trees).

Conversely, most berry and perennial vegetable yields saw a decrease in reported yield from 2014, with the exception of strawberries and grapes. Despite decreases, strawberries, raspberries, asparagus, and blackberries again yielded the best, and jostaberries, hardy kiwis, goumis, and gooseberries yielded least. The best producers have quickly spreading growth habits and few pest pressures, and the lowest producers are slower-growing bushes that often take several years to reach maturity. It is unclear why most berries produced lower yields in 2015, but best guesses are that partners paid less attention to pruning older canes and crowding bushes, causing less overall energy and young wood available for fruit production. “Easy to maintain” could easily slide into “complete neglect” in orchard and urban farm settings where other, more time-intensive plants require greater attention and priority. Greater efforts will be made in 2016 to encourage partners to prune these low-maintenance plants for greatest yield.

Culinary and medicinal herbs were not tracked in prior years, but some of the yields from more popular understory herbs in our orchards that are planted in the food forest style are very exciting. For example, partners who tracked mint harvests reported a total of 127 pounds harvested! One of POP’s largest plans for educational expansion this season include educating partners and the general public about orchard herbs and their uses. We hope this will encourage more harvesting and tracking of these very important plants for ecosystems and human health.

Total reported orchard production from all POP partners was 3,910 pounds, a 67% increase from 2014.

Asian pears at North Philly's Village of Arts & Humanities. Reported yield of all tree fruits increased in 2015.
Asian pears at North Philly’s Village of Arts & Humanities. Reported yield of all tree fruits grew in 2015 and total reported yield increased 67% over 2014.

ORCHARD CHALLENGES

The most common orchard problems reported were almost the same as last year, with the largest increases in reported disease and insect pests and the largest decrease in reported vandalism.  Challenges included squirrels, diseases, insect pests, birds, weeds, theft, and vandalism. Additionally, respondents reported several other challenges including low or no productivity, groundhogs, deer, watering issues, lack of pruning, and not enough people working to maintain an orchard. More specific problems mentioned were apple worms, fruit not ripening, fig dieback, peach leaf curl, oriental fruit moth, brown rot, and fireblight.

ORCHARD SUPPORT

Orchard partners and liaisons are overwhelmingly pleased with the work and support that POP does to assist in orchard care and education. Some of the programmatic work that’s been most appreciated has been pruning help, POP Tips, providing weed guides and basic pruning tools, and organizing larger volunteer groups for workdays.

We asked a series of questions to determine what type of expanded educational programs POP should focus on. If offered, 85% of respondents would participate in a Community Orchardist Training Course and 77% would enroll in a Permaculture Design Certification (PDC) Program if the conditions (dates and costs) were favorable. In addition to short workshops and hands-on trainings at orchard sites, POP will continue to develop longer-term courses, planned to start in late 2016.

POP co-sponsored Philadelphia's first ever full Permaculture Design Course in 2015. Our partners report a high level of interest in expanded educational programs.
POP co-sponsored Philadelphia’s first ever full Permaculture Design Course in 2015. Our partners report a high level of interest in expanded educational programs.

As the number of POP staff, interns, liaisons, dedicated volunteers, and confident partners continue to grow, we are hopeful that overall capacity and understanding of what it takes to properly maintain orchard ecosystems will also. Despite the notion that orchards and perennial ecosystems are slow to produce, the time that passes between planting and plants reaching maximum productivity is far less than the amount of time needed to train an organization, community, and city to adjust their lifestyles to care for the plants in their orchards to reduce loss and harvest maximum yield. As such, much of the work POP does needs to be in attempting to shorten that span of time, requiring not only information about pests and diseases, but conveying the importance of patience, routine, making time for observation, and preventing problems rather than treating problems.

[This is an abbreviated version of the full survey summary. If you have questions or would like a copy of the full summary, please e-mail robyn@phillyorchards.org.]

POP Pruning Guide: Fruit Trees

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

Pruning is the regulation of plant growth and productivity through branch removal and bud manipulation. Good pruning can help fruit trees become more resistant to pests and disease, as well as bear a larger, more consistent, and better quality harvest.  Annual pruning is strongly recommended for best health and production of the more common pome and stone fruits (apples, pears, peaches, plums, cherries, apricots).  Most uncommon fruits have less intensive pruning needs (see list at the end of this article).

GT pruning 2015
Winter fruit tree pruning workshop at Grumblethorpe historic house in Philadelphia.

WHY PRUNE?

  1. Removing dead and diseased wood helps prevent infection and the spread of disease.
  2. Pruning can improve both the quantity and quality of the harvest. The interior of unpruned trees tend to be too shady for good production. They may also demonstrate alternate-bearing: a large, low quality harvest one year followed by a very small harvest the next.
  3. Good shaping works with a plant’s natural growth habit to develop a strong primary structure that is able to support the full weight of harvests.
  4. Encouraging good branch angles can prevent them from breaking in a storm or under the weight of fruit, which can tear deep into the trunk and endanger the whole tree. A narrow crotch angle is weak; at 17 degrees or less the bark gets pinched between the branch and trunk, trapping water and promoting rot. A crotch angle between 45 and 60 degrees is ideal, because the bark can develop fully.

crotch angles

  1. sprouts and suckersPruning maximizes fruit production and health by controlling vegetative growth. Shoots, water sprouts, and vertical branches drain a tree’s energy. Suckers grow from below the graft union and divert energy from the grafted tree.
  2. Sunlight to the interior of the tree is essential for flower bud formation and fruit ripening.
  3. Increased air circulation to the interior can significantly reduce both development of fungal diseases and pest populations.

 

KNOW YOUR PLANT

How, when, and what to prune will depend on what type of tree you are working with. Be familiar with your tree’s growth habit (pyramidal, spreading, bushy, climbing, vigorous) so as to choose the pruning style best suited to the plant’s natural growth tendencies. Also learn about its fruiting habit; inadvertently pruning fruiting wood or specialized fruiting structures can seriously compromise a tree’s ability to bear fruit.  See tree list at the end of this article for more information specific to different fruit types.

 

WHEN TO PRUNE:

Damaged and diseased wood, suckers and watersprouts should be promptly pruned, no matter what time of year.  During active growing season, always sterilize tools with rubbing alcohol or a 10% bleach solution between each cut.  A spray bottle is the easiest means of application.

Most annual pruning should be done during the dormant season, before buds begin to swell, and preferably on a day when the temperature is above freezing (late January through early March in Philadelphia).  Most tree diseases are dormant in winter, thus reducing the spread of infection. However, sterilizing tools is still good practice especially with trees known to be infected.  Pruning cuts made in winter will also heal more quickly with the spring growing season to follow.

Some exceptions include…
Peaches should be pruned during or after they bloom in spring. Apples, pears, and grapes can be pruned earlier, starting in late December.  Espaliered fruit trees need both dormant and active season pruning to maintain their form.

pruning cuts

 

PRUNING METHODS

Thinning: To allow more light and air into the interior, cut branches back to their point of origin on the parent branch.  This is a highly recommended technique and the type of cut used most often.


Tipping/Heading
: The opposite of a thinning cut in that it induces more side branching.  Cut a branch back to a lateral bud heading in the direction you want the branch to grow. Make the cut ¼” above a bud (to allow for dieback) and at an angle parallel to the direction of the bud.

Damaging Cuts – Do Not Use!

Shearing: One of the worst things you can do to a fruit tree is to remove a set length from all of the outer growth, in which cuts fall randomly above and below buds. Shearing will cause a flush of dense, bushy growth, which is fine for hedges, but can ruin trees.

 

OTHER TRAINING/SHAPING METHODS

Notching: By nicking vascular tissue above or below a lateral bud, you can determine whether a bud becomes a shoot or a flower. The nick should be close to the bud, about 1/8” wide, but not deep (a mere scratch – to cut the phloem just below the bark surface). It should reach halfway around the stem. To produce a shoot, notch above dormant bud, cutting off the flow of growth hormones from terminal bud. To produce a flower, notch below the dormant bud, sending the flow of carbohydrates from the leaf to the bud instead of the rest of the tree.

Spreading, bending:  Various techniques can be used to train branches to better, more horizontal angles.  Hanging weights (molded concrete hangers, water bottles, etc,), using clothespins in late May-June, tying branches to ground or mouse guards, or using commercial or homemade limb spreaders to widen branch angles, will help make branches both sturdier and more fruitful.  Always carefully bend branches partially to side, not down, to prevent breaking.  Spreading and bending is especially important for trees with upright habits, including pears, apples, european plums, and sweet cherries.

Commercial or homemade limb spreaders can be used to train branches to more horizontal angles.

 

 

BASIC STRUCTURE OF FRUIT TREES

Central Leader

The central leader method is for trees with a strong vertical (conical, pyramidal) growth habit (apples, pears, European plums). Usually 3 tiers (whorls), each consisting of 4 branches, 6-9” apart, and spaced evenly around the trunk.

Tier #1: 2-3′ above ground
Tier #2: 5-6′ above ground
Tier #3: 8-9′ above ground

central leader

Modified Central Leader

The modified central leader is an alternate method for trees with a moderate vertical growth habit, recommended for sweet cherries and some apples and pears. 5-6 branches are left spiraling evenly up the trunk, 8-12″ apart, but the trunk is cut back to a main branch at 5-8′, and treated as open-center from that point.

mod central leader

Vase or Open-Center

Vase or open-center is used for tees with a spreading, vase-shaped growth habit (such as peaches, Japanese plums, and pie cherries). A whorl of 3-5 branches is left within 2-3′ above ground; any main trunk is cut back to the topmost branch.

open center

 

BASIC STEPS IN PRUNING

Note: As a general rule, avoid removing more than 30% of living wood in one growing season or there will be a flush of vegetative growth as the tree tries to replace the removed wood.  If a larger percentage needs to be removed for some reason, consider summer pruning to minimize regrowth.  Peaches are a notable exception in that up to 50% of living wood is removed every year.  

  1. After removing dead and diseased wood, start with bending and spreading. Then, use thinning cuts primarily, and tipping or heading only to encourage lateral branching.
  2. Don’t prune off fruiting spurs on apples, pears, apricots, and plums. On peaches and sour cherries, thin the fruit-bearing wood by removing twigs under 4-6”.
  3. Keep the central area open by removing crossed, crowded, and inward growing branches. This increases light to interior and improves air circulation.
  4. Prune for branch strength by removing branches with acute crotches (less than 17 degrees between the branch and the main trunk). Encourage wider angles by training narrow forks through spreading techniques.

 

Making the Cut:

Smaller branches.  To remove a branch less than 1” wide you will make a single cut just outside the outermost ring of the branch collar. Start by locating the branch collar, which is a swollen area of compressed rings of bark tissue/wood at the base of a branch. It is the point at which the growth pattern of the trunk overlaps that of the branch, strengthening the connection of the branch to the tree as new growth is added each year. Branch collar tissue is the tissue that heals and closes over the wound made by removing a branch. It is also a storehouse of phenolic compounds which prevent fungal diseases from entering the plant while the wound is healing.

  • Use high quality tools and sharpen them before every pruning session. Bypass pruners and handsaws are the primary tools needed for young trees.  Larger trees may require pole pruners, pole saws, or orchard ladders.
  • Make precise cuts. Never cut into the branch collar. The proper cut may leave an unsightly wedge of wood, but cutting into the branch collar reduces the tree’s capacity to heal.
  • Don’t leave a stub. If more than 1/8″ of wood is left outside the branch collar, the wound takes much longer to heal, because the healing tissue of the branch collar must grow out over that extra wood. This increases the risk of attack by insects and diseases.
  • Always make a straight, flat cut. Do not try to sculpt the cut to the contours of the branch collar as you may accidentally damage the branch collar tissue.

branch collar

Larger branches.  A three cut approach is best for pruning branches larger than 1” in thickness.  Although the final cut should be made in the same location, just outside the branch collar, preparatory cuts are recommended to avoid the weight of the branch tearing down the side of the trunk and causing significant damage to the tree.  Use a handsaw rather than a pruner to make cuts on larger branches.

  • The first cut should be made on the underside of the branch, a couple inches out from the branch collar.  Saw only a quarter to halfway through the branch.  This prevents the weight of the branch from tearing towards the trunk on the second cut.
  • The second cut should be made just beyond the first cut.  Saw all the way through the branch from the top.  This removes most of the weight of the branch.
  • Make the third and final cut just outside of the branch collar, perpendicular to the branch bark ridge.

 

PRUNING NOTES FOR SPECIFIC FRUIT TREES:

Apple (Malus)- Preferred form depends on variety, but central leader or modified central leader works for most.  Spreading/bending branches is recommended.  Thin fruit to 5” apart.

Apricot (Prunus armeniaca)- Open center or modified central leader.  Thin fruit to 2” apart if necessary.

Cherry, Sweet (Prunus avium)- Modified central leader.  Head leader to create sidebranching.

Cherry, Tart (Prunus cerasus)- Open center or modified central leader.

Fig (Ficus)- In protected sites, can be grown as open center form.  In spring, remove winterkilled branches.  In exposed sites, wrapping or mulching may be needed for winter protection.

Hazel/Filbert (Corylus)- Open center, with moderate pruning to stimulate growth.

Jujube (Zizyphus)- Minimal pruning needed.

Juneberry (Amelanchier)-  Minimal pruning needed.

Medlar (Mespilus)- Minimal pruning needed.

Mulberry (Morus)- Minimal pruning needed.  May be severely cut back to maintain smaller size.

Pawpaw (Asimina)- Minimal pruning needed.

Peach (Prunus persica)- Prune during or just after flowering.  Remove up to 50% each year.  Open center form.  Thin fruit to 8” apart.

Pear and Asian Pear (Pyrus)- Central leader or modified central leader.  Spreading/bending branches is recommended.  Thin fruit to 5” apart.

Persimmon (Diospyros)- Modified central leader.  Shorten long willowy shoots.

Plum (Prunus)- Open center form, except for European varieties that prefer central leader.  Thin to 2” apart on heavy bearing varieties.

 

pruning tools

MOST IMPORTANT PRUNING EQUIPMENT

As with most tools, don’t buy the cheapest available!  Quality tools will perform better and last longer.  

  • Bypass hand pruner
  • Hand saw
  • Bypass loppers
  • Blade sharpener
  • Alcohol spray bottle (for sterilization)

When your trees get larger, you’ll likely also need:

  • Pole pruner
  • Pole saw
  • Orchard ladder (tripod)
  • Bow saw (for larger branches)

 

MORE PRUNING RESOURCES:

http://www.plantamnesty.org/pruning-literature

Lee Reich, The Pruning Book and Grow Fruit Naturally

Carla Emery, The Encyclopedia of Country Living

Michael Phillips, The Holistic Orchard

 

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: phillyorchards.org/donate.

Emergency Pruning for Fruit Trees

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

Although the primary orchard pruning season in our climate is winter while trees are dormant, certain conditions may necessitate pruning any time of year.  It is especially important to limit pruning after mid summer, but there are still some circumstances that require us to consider pruning:

-serious disease, fungus, or pest pressure

-dead or damaged wood, which may provide a future avenue for pests and disease

-root suckers, quick upright growth from the roots or base of the trunk

-weather causing a tree’s limbs to endanger a structure

fire blight
Certain tree diseases like Fire Blight should be pruned out any time of year.

If you’ve come up against the need for tree care that can’t wait until dormancy, here are some POP tips to remember:

1. Safety first!

a. Protect your free hand by wearing a glove.

b. Be extra careful if your saw gets caught up in wood because it can slash across your hand if suddenly freed.

c. If pruning something overhead, be aware that it may not fall as you expect.

d. Do not overreach, especially if using a ladder. We recommend a pole pruner.

e. Do not use power tools unless professionally trained. They’re more dangerous to you and the tree.

f. Be very careful if you’re near powerlines.

2. Sterilize, sterilize, sterilize! Especially when dealing with a bacterial or viral disease, and especially when a tree is in its active growth period, keep isopropyl alcohol or a bleach solution (1 part bleach: 10 parts water) on hand. Our preferred method is applying alcohol to pruning blades and saws with a spray bottle, but wiping with a saturated cloth also works.  Sterilize your tools before you start, after every cut, and when you’re finished. Make sure to keep your hands clean, too. If you touch diseased wood and then touch the healthy tree, you can spread the disease.

3. Keep all pruning tools rust-free and as sharp as possible! If they are dull, they will not cut cleanly and will leave a tree more susceptible to disease.

4. Always use the smallest tool for the job at hand. Use hand pruners instead of a hand saw or bow saw, until and unless you can’t make the cut.  Pruners are generally effective for branches up to 3/4″ in diameter.

5. When pruning a branch, make sure to cut just outside the branch collar, the donut-like, raised section of growth out of which the branch is growing. If you cut inside the collar, it is harder for the tree to heal and leaves the trunk or branch beneath open to pests and disease.

6. When dealing with bacterial infections like fire blight, cut 12 inches beyond where the tree has been visibly affected. The bacteria moves into the wood beyond where it shows physical symptoms.

7. Avoid pruning during a periods of extended drought.

8. Too much pruning, especially in the active season, can result in unhealthy growth.  Pruning after mid summer can also result in new growth that doesn’t have time to harden off before winter, so avoid all but vital emergency pruning between August and December.  

If you’re scared about pruning or not sure whether there are other methods of last resort, we are here to help. For more info, see POP’s full pruning guide for fruit trees, berry bushes, and fruiting vines.

root suckers
Root suckers growing from the base of a tree should be removed as soon as they appear, regardless of season.

 

MORE INFO:

http://www.plantamnesty.org/pruning-literature

Lee Reich, The Pruning Book and Grow Fruit Naturally
Carla Emery, The Encyclopedia of Country Living
Michael Phillips, The Holistic Orchard

This edition of POP TIPS prepared by Education & Outreach Director Robyn Mello. 

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: phillyorchards.org/donate.  

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: phillyorchards.org/donate.