POPHarvest Program Update 2018-19

Posted on Categories Blog, Harvesting, Home, Plants, Wild EdiblesTags , , , ,

The POPHarvest gleaning program has taken a few turns and this year ventured into new fruiterritory, launching a new POPHarvestEd workshop series! The POPHarvest program, first piloted in 2014, is focused on picking and distributing fruit that would otherwise go to waste. These programs have taken two primary forms: distributing excess production from regional commercial orchards and educating about abundant but overlooked city fruit. In previous years, POP had developed relationships with some larger scale commercial orchards that would allow groups of POP volunteers to harvest otherwise unused portions of their production for donation to local emergency food services. This opportunity has unfortunately been on hold the past few seasons and while attempting to rekindle this, we’ve adjusted to further highlighting more unusual, yet abundantly available plants that grow in the city.  

POPHarvest events in 2018 focused on abundant but often overlooked city fruits, including crabapples, juneberries, mulberries, and hawthorns.

In 2018, we hosted our 3rd annual week long Juneberry Joy campaign, harvesting 118 pounds of juneberries with volunteers at 9 locations across the city, followed by a two-part Mulberry Madness yielding 51 pounds. These yields were utilized by a variety of local partners to create magical, edible and drinkable concoctions ranging from ice cream to kombucha, demonstrating the culinary value of these lesser utilized fruits. In the fall, POP engaged in two crabapple harvests, totaling 242 pounds, much of which was donated and turned into applesauce by Sunday Suppers, a culinary education program serving families at risk of food insecurity. Other group harvests included 25 lbs of hawthorn, and small paw paw and persimmon gleans, all supplemented with discussions of recipes, preservation, and other uses. For many of these lesser utilized orchard and regional gleaning opportunities, we have produced info sheets available on POP’s website to extend the reach of our educational efforts. These sheets contain plant facts, seasonal care tips, nutritional information and propagation or usage recommendations.  

If you’re interested in getting involved with gleaning efforts, please join our POPHarvest email list or reach out to michael@phillyorchards.org.

Introducing POPHarvestEd!

To expand upon what we at POP can share with our communities in the POPHarvest program, we piloted a new POPHarvestEd community harvest education program in fall of 2018. This workshop series brings in community teachers to lead gleaning workshops focused on sharing cultural, culinary, and medicinal uses of lesser known fruits, nuts, and herbs that are widely available through POP orchards and the Philadelphia region. In this effort, we are able to provide a platform for more diverse expertise, traditions, experiences and viewpoints concerning lesser known harvests in our region. We believe all people have something to learn and teach, and we celebrate the many ways people come to knowledge in their own unique experience and time. 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.

The POPHarvestEd workshop series features community educators sharing cultural, culinary, and medicinal knowledge about abundant but lesser known fruits and orchard plants.

In 2019, the POPHarvestEd community education program is looking for 8-10 teachers to share workshop proposals that would include info on selected plant(s), group harvesting, and food or medicine crafting. POP has been able to pay teachers a flat rate and sponsor ServSafe certification for workshop facilitators while offering these workshops on a sliding scale for attendees. If you’re interested in leading a POPHarvestEd workshop this year, please reach out to alyssa@phillyorchards.org or michael@phillyorchards.org for more info.

List of potential plants for 2019 POPHarvestEd programs:



trifoliate orange




aronia / chokeberry

black walnuts



grapes / grape leaves



lemon balm

bee balm

anise hyssop



lemon balm


raspberry leaf

blackberry leaf (root)

mulberry leaf

peach leaf

japanese knotweed


yellow dock


This blog post written by Orchard Director Michael Muehlbauer.

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.  

Those Nutty Gardeners: PA & NY Nut Growers Association!

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Well, we all know gardeners can be a little nutty, but these next two groups take the cake.

The Pennsylvania Nut Growers Association (PNGA) and New York Nut Growers Association (NNGA) asked POP to join them at their spring meeting at Delaware State University in Doylestown, PA this year, and it was well worth the drive to meet them! We got got to learn about some great work being done in Pennsylvania and New York, which we’d love to tell you about.

Formed in 1932 to promote interest in hardy nut growing trees, their products and their culture, PNGA is a non-profit group dedicated to assisting local professionals, hobbyists, and students in growing higher quality nut trees. They offer a wide range of opportunities, including tree grafting workshops, demonstrations, farm tours, and newsletter articles as well as access to a network of experienced members.

On this fine day, we heard about commercialization efforts for Eastern Hazelnuts, the Gleaning Project of South Central Pennsylvania, the Hundred Fruit Farm Permaculture CSA, the Downingtown nut tree plantings of John W. Hershey, farm succession, and government resources to help farmers with legal issues all in one place! This was all followed by grafting demonstrations, where a hickory grafted before our very eyes was donated to us here at POP.

It was encouraging to hear that the Upper Midwest Hazelnut Development Initiative is to working to support the growth and commercialization of the hazelnut industry through efforts in grower support, targeted research, and technology transfer. These folks (which include our new Orchard Director Michael’s former adviser) see an opportunity for substantial regenerative agriculture through Hazelnuts that can contribute perennial food, an array of value added products, and biofuels. Could this be true or are they just nuts?

American Hazelnut, photocredit “Corylus americana Tree Record.” 1995-2018. May 29, 2018. <https://selectree.calpoly.edu/tree-detail/corylus-americana>

Apparently, the american hazelnut is more than just a nut. It is 81% oleic acid, making it one of the healthiest oils available and also a superior feedstock for biodiesel and other bio-industrials. It’s claimed that hazelnuts grown in Nebraska have shown the potential to yield twice as much oil per acre as soybeans, which is a step up in the attempt for sustainable biofuels. Aside from these special value added products, The Upper Midwest Hazelnut Initiative describes their use in trail mixes, nut clusters, nut butters, and on their own all while lending itself to mixed regenerative and perennial agriculture approaches. Hazelnuts are among the nut trees we’ve been planting in urban orchards because they can be grown as a bushy shrub and kept to a very manageable size through pruning- a perennial food source indeed if you can keep ahead of the squirrels!

Photo credit: The Gleaning Project

Also in the room were fellow gleaners in South Central PA taking on food waste in a big way with The Gleaning Project. Much larger than our own POPHarvest gleaning program but something to strive for, The Gleaning Project has over 120 partners and is gleaning over 300,000 lbs of produce, feeding over 26,000 food-insecure individuals each year! This effort started as a volunteer side project of two growers in Adams County, Jan and Jerry Althoff, under a national faith-based gleaning and food recovery non-profit. After 4 years of expanding the Gleaning Project alongside running a nursery business, the effort was ultimately adopted by the South Central Community Action Program and has grown into what it is today. This story demonstrates the power of dedicated volunteers and good hearts, and we are glad to see you shine.

Unassuming, yet evenly spaced walnuts trees. Photo credit: Small Acts Ecological Design <http://smallactsecodesign.blogspot.com/>

And check this out! If you want to see why planting fruits and nuts is a good idea, you’ll have to check out the remnants of John W. Hershey’s tree nursery in Downingtown, PA. Mr. Hershey is said to have worked very hard  toward the improvement of native fruit and nut trees in the region during his time. While the land his nursery existed on had been sold after his death with houses and buildings subsequently built throughout, much of his work still stands tall today. We’ve heard of bur oaks that produce low tannin content acorns, large american persimmon trees, grafted thornless honey locusts, large grafted Northern pecans, hicans, hickories, walnuts, shagbarks, and sweet pignuts that still stand from the original nursery, and we plan to take a trip soon to investigate further!

The knowledge and experience present at the nut grower’s meeting was rich, diverse, and in this observer’s opinion, should be thoroughly documented and distributed. We heard from tree crop growers young and old, including new permaculture-based Hundred Fruit Farm in Buckingham PA; Wild Ridge Plants with their edible, medicinal, and native offerings; and even how to plan for your farm’s succession when you start to worry about reaching that age.  The reason we were all there together? We are passionate about one thing. . . which is, absolutely, nuts! These folks seem to be on to something, however, so we hope to connect again soon.












This blog post written by POP Orchard Director Michael Muehlbauer. 

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 History 2014 & Volunteer Highlight: Ryan Kuck

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“This is the power of community orchards. They inspire, they lift spirits, they demonstrate resiliency, and they bring people together around that greatest of common denominators – food. ”
-Ryan Kuck, 2014 Golden Persimmon Volunteer

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

The POPHarvest gleaning program was piloted in 2014, educating city residents about abundant but neglected fruits like juneberries, crabapples, and ginkgo nuts.

Philadelphia Orchard Project History: 2014
POP again expanded our programming in 2014 by bringing on new staff in Robyn Mello as our Education & Outreach Director.  Among other things, Robyn started our POPHarvest gleaning program to pick and distribute fruit that would otherwise go to waste and to educate the public about abundant but neglected fruit in the city.  New planting sites in 2014 included assisting with design and planting of a multi-acre orchard with the Philadelphia Prison System and a demonstration orchard at Penn Park on UPenn’s campus.  Our 4th annual Orchard Day expanded to Philadelphia Orchard Weekend, involving over 1700 participants in harvest festivals and other events at orchards across the city.  POP’s Executive Director Phil Forsyth presented a TEDx talk on the value of urban community orchards.

POP ORCHARDS PLANTED in 2014:  St James United Methodist, Penn Park, Philadelphia Prison Systems, Gorgas Park, Tablespread Farm
2014 POP NEWSLETTERS: Summer, Winter
2014 POP ORCHARD SPOTLIGHTS: Tertulias @ Norris Square,  Earth’s Keepers Farm at Kingsessing Rec Center
2014 POP BOARD PRESIDENT: Brian Olszak

New POP Education & Outreach Director Robyn Mello helping to plant fruit trees at the Philadelphia Prison Systems orchard in 2014.


Ryan Kuck volunteered on POP’s Board and Orchard Committee from 2007 through 2011.  He continues to help maintain fruit trees and community orchards in the Belmont neighborhood and currently serves as Executive Director of Greensgrow Farms
I was just in NYC the other weekend visiting the first official permaculture project in a city park. “Really?” I said. “In Philly we’ve been doing this for over 10 years!” In New York there is an ordinance specifically prohibiting foraging from park land. But I’m watching a few dozen families come and go through this rather nondescript pilot project in the Bronx, excitedly finding edible herbs and flowers, showing their friends and children, and carrying their treasures back home. Given the enormous chip Philly has on its shoulder about being a forgotten sibling to New York, it’s nice to see this city so far ahead of the curve on the powers of community-based food forests. NYC’s got nothing on us!
I started volunteering with POP in 2007, having done a few guerilla plantings around the city that couldn’t quite attract enough attention to build a movement. It is remarkable what POP has accomplished over that time, and I brag to anyone that will listen that I have 30 fruit trees growing within 3 blocks of my house. We embarked on an ambitious project to build 10 permanent garden spaces in our neighborhood of Belmont with community partners. We knew we didn’t want to replicate the fragile system of growing on vacant land, but rather sought to build a resilient network that improved community-owned assets through agriculture. We started with annual vegetables but slowly the gardens sprouted fruit trees and perennials. It can be hard to maintain a raised bed, or to convince someone unfamiliar that rainbow chard is worth a try, but everyone knows what a cherry is. We had kids and got busy with life, and most of the gardens found other caretakers. And the fruit trees just keep growing. Even when a group of rowdy kids climb branches a bit too small to reach those highest fruits and snap a limb, those trees keep shooting for the sky and defiantly producing another bushel.
Yesterday a woman walked by our house and in her hand was a persimmon that a neighbor had helped her pick from the nearby Ogden Gardens orchard site. When she saw that our garden also had a tree full of ripening persimmons, she flagged us down and exclaimed: “My son just tasted one of these at a program in his school- I can’t believe they’re growing in our neighborhood!” 

This is the power of community orchards. They inspire, they lift spirits, they demonstrate resiliency, and they bring people together around that greatest of common denominators – food.

Golden Persimmon Volunteer Ryan Kuck with his very young apprentice at Ogden Gardens, one of several POP orchards he helped to plant in his neighborhood.

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.

Getting Creative with Fall Foraging: Crabapples and Gingko Nuts and Leaves

Posted on Categories Blog, Canning, Cooking & Preservation, Harvesting, Home, Plant Profiles, Plants, POP Orchards, POPharvests, Recipes, Wild EdiblesTags , , , , , , , , , , ,

If you’ve walked around the streets of Philadelphia in the fall, you’ve likely seen the gorgeous foliage and decor of crabapple and gingko trees. Although these trees are popular in urban landscapes and beyond, they are oft-overlooked as sources of foraged food. During this fall season, we encourage you to get creative and harvest these special plants – with a little bit of practice (and some helpful information — see below!), crabapples and gingko nuts can become pantry staples.


Crabapples are classified as any apples with a diameter less than 2 inches, representing a wide range of Malus species native to North America, Asia, and Europe. Crabapple trees are small deciduous trees that flower prolifically in spring and produce abundant fruit in the fall.  Look around and they are easy to spot on many tree-lined streets of Philadelphia. Most common crabapple cultivars are selected for their ornamental qualities, but there are some known for their relatively larger, distinguished, flavorful and pleasant fruit (see list of good edible crabapple varieties here).  Crabapples boast similar nutritional value to their non-crabby counterparts, with noted amounts of vitamin C and antioxidants. Although the fruit is often small and sour, its culinary uses are many!

In the kitchen, crabapples can be featured similarly to larger and sweeter apples in baked goods, jams, jellies, juices, syrups, butters, purees, and fruit leathers. Crabapple jelly is a POP favorite! Check out a recipe card for you to use at home from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension and more easy-to-make recipes from UAFCE here. For a hands-on demo, join us November 11 from 12-2pm at Greensgrow Community Kitchen for a jam and jelly making workshop with Chef Gail Hinson! 

Gingko Nuts and Leaves

Ginkgo biloba trees are one of the oldest plants on earth, so old that they are considered ancient living fossils that have “remained essentially unchanged since [their] debut 180 million years ago.” The ginkgo tree was introduced in North America through Philadelphia from England; it was originally – and still is – championed as a fantastic ornamental landscape tree.  The very first Ginkgo tree in North America was planted by William Hamilton at his estate at The Woodlands in West Philadelphia, where the office of the Philadelphia Orchard Project is now located! 

Photo credit: Serious Eats

Before consuming ginkgo nuts, please read POP’s edible plant disclaimer at the end of the article.

With careful preparation, ginkgo seeds can be snacked on and ginkgo leaves can be used for tea. Because of the chemical compounds in ginkgo fruit including urushiol the active irritating chemical in poison ivy, the seeds require special cleaning and processing. If you get close enough to take a whiff, you’ll notice the cheesy smell of ginkgo’s female fruit – a fair warning of its potential poisonous qualities. When harvesting and processing ginkgo for seeds, wear gloves and take caution. You’ll remove the seeds from the fruit and then process by boiling, pan roasting, or frying in a skillet.

After processing, it is best to limit your intake of ginkgo seeds to every other day.  Children should always limit their consumption to no more than 5 ginkgo seeds in a day.   Consuming too many gingko nuts can make you feel ill and possibly interfere with vitamin B6 absorption due to the natural presence of 4-methoxypyridoxine. 

So, noting all of that, you may ask, why is it worth it? For many reasons! Ginkgo seeds can be flavorful and tender, they are a staple of specific Asian soups, and they’re plentiful! If you’re interested in trying it out, we recommend the following resources for more information:

Ginkgo Seed Collection & Preparation, written by Dr. Coder at the University of Virginia How to identify, harvest and prepare Ginkgo biloba for brain health and this great guide by wildfood forager Green Deane. 

Wishing you an abundant and joyful harvest!

This POP Plant Feature was written by POP 2017 Outreach & Education intern Amy Jean Jacobs. 


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.

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 Summer Newsletter 2017

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Partnering with POP gave my students more than just the chance to plant trees; it provided us with experiential learning opportunities fostering skills for changing our communities while understanding proper plant care. Our classroom became orchards and gardens amid a sea of concrete; our materials morphed into natural resources and tools to shape them. Our curriculum was no longer worksheets and textbooks–rather, a call to direct action, creating and learning how to design agricultural systems that can provide communities with food, medicine, and sustainable practices to help them become cleaner, healthier, independent, and more closely connected.”
– Cole Jadrosich, Tilden Middle School Literacy & Agricultural Educator

Please join POP in celebrating 10 years of planting community orchards in the city!  Thank you for your support of our vision of a more beautiful and bountiful Philadelphia. 

Here are some highlights from our 2017 spring season:  

  • Planted our 1,141th fruit tree and supported our 57th community orchard site!
  • Received the Great American Gardeners Award for Urban Beautification from the American Horticultural Society
  • Assisted with brand new orchard plantings at Pastorius Community Gardens, St Bernard Community Garden, Tilden Middle School, and Bartram High School
  • Involved over 600 volunteers and 1000 participants in 87 events including orchard plantings, work days, workshops, tours, harvests, and festivals
  • Organized our first POP CORE urban orchardist certification course

We hope you will take a few minutes to read below about some of the interesting people and stories we encountered along the way.  

POP’s programs run all year!  Join us for our Jam-making workshop at Greensgrow this Saturday, 8/12 or check out our website for a variety of upcoming orchard work days at sites across the city. 

POP is Celebrating its 10 Year Anniversary!

Can you believe it? These last 10 years have been filled with new orchard plantings, collaborations, community gatherings, harvest festivals, fruit picking, and so much more! We are so excited to celebrate these last 10 years with our POP community and hope you will join us on Sunday, September 10th for POP’s 10th Anniversary Celebration!

10 years, 57 community orchards, and still growing.

If you can’t make it, please consider supporting our next ten years with a donation

Spring 2017 Summary

Orchard Plantings. POP’s core work of planting and supporting community orchards in the city continues to grow, and we are now working with 57 different orchard sites in neighborhoods across the city!  209 volunteers joined with us and our partners at 10 orchard planting events this spring.  Brand new orchards were planted with Pastorius Community Gardens in Germantown; St Bernard Community Garden in West Philly; and Tilden Middle School and Bartram High School in Southwest Philly. We also expanded existing orchard sites at Kleinlife, Lea Elementary, Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, Overbrook School for the Blind, PhillyEarth @ the Village of Arts & Humanities, and Penn Park. To read more about all our orchard partners and view a map of POP sites: phillyorchards.org/orchards.

Expansion planting at KleinLife in spring 2017. 

Harvest, Gleaning & Preservation. In April, Robyn had the opportunity to present and participate in the first ever International Gleaners Symposium. The symposium was hosted in Salt Lake City by Green Urban Lunchbox, an urban agriculture and gleaning organization based there, and attended by gleaning nonprofits from all over the US and Canada. Back in Philadelphia, our POPHarvest program kicket off with our 2nd annual Juneberry Joy Campaign, where 122 pounds of juneberries were harvested by 45 volunteers for take home and partnerships with various local food businesses. We’ve also harvested strawberries, cherries, and mulberries with various POP Partner Orchards, and we continued our relationship with Linvilla Orchards by harvesting 1,000 pounds of excess peaches and distributing them to several emergency food centers in Philadelphia. POPHarvest additionally expanded its scope to include two herb harvests from the abundant food forest-style partner orchard in Penn Park. Participants harvested roman chamomile, elderberries, anise hyssop, thyme, and oregano for spices and medicine, and sampled some of the first ripe grapes in the orchard! Stay up to date for more upcoming POPHarvest events by joining the listserv here.

POPHarvest volunteers with gleaned Linvilla peaches
POPHarvest volunteers with gleaned Linvilla peaches

Orchard Education.  POP continues to educate our orchard partners through diverse offerings including workshops, consulting visits, POP TIPS shared through the Philadelphia Orchard Group (PHOG), and the Philadelphia Orchard Project Blog. In March, POP hosted its first ever Community Orchard Resilience Education course (POPCORE) to more comprehensively train orchardists throughout the city to care for their spaces long into the future. This 4-part course includes (1) “Pruning and Orchard Care Through The Seasons”, (2) “Eco-Orchard Pest and Disease Management”, (3) “Orchard Plants and Fungi”, and (4) “Introduction to Permaculture Design”. 33 students took at least one class and 8 complete the whole course! Moving forward, we plan to teach one class every 3 months and teach the whole course every March. Though educating our partners and volunteers is the main motivation for designing this course, all classes are open to the general public–and we never know when today’s first time student could become tomorrow’s new orchard steward! You can take one or all classes and complete the course within two years for certification. Sign up for our next POPCORE workshop to be held on September 28 and stay tuned to events listings on our website for ongoing POPCORE offerings.

Students in the first POPCORE Course participate in answering big questions for group discussion. Join our next workshop on Orchard Plants & Fungi on September 28th

School Orchards update.  In January 2017, POP hired two-time Education & Outreach intern Alyssa Schimmel to serve as POP’s new Education Director.  In collaboration with POP’s 10 school partner sites, POP is creating orchard-based lesson plans to implement into the classroom with elementary, middle, and high school students. Pilot sites for the new program including Lea Elementary, Tilden Middle School, and the Overbrook School for the Blind.  POP plans to build a network of educators throughout the city for educational resource sharing and curriculum development. Please email alyssa@phillyorchards.org if you would like to join a committee of dynamic and inspired agricultural educators.

Community Design Meetings with new POP Partner Applicant, Cramp Elementary School, have been very rewarding!

Juneberry Joy 2017

An annual tradition in its second year, Juneberry Joy is an exciting collaboration between the Philadelphia Orchard Project, volunteersand local food artisans.  This year, POP volunteers help us harvest 119 pounds of juneberries (also known as serviceberries or saskatoons) from 9 different locations across the city.  The berries were then bought by 9 different artisan partners and crafted into yummy food goods to introduce yet more folks to this abundant and delicious city fruit!  Participating partners this year included Weckerly’s, Schmear It, Magpie, Fikira Bakery, Crime & Punishment, Lil Pop Shop, Martha, The Monkey & The Elephant, and Funky Fresh.  A portion of the proceeds from berry and food sales is donated back to POP’s community orchard programming.

Read more about this year’s Juneberry Joy, including the delights made by our artisan partners and recipe ideas!

2017 Strawberry Festival

This year was our biggest Strawberry Festival ever, with over 200 participants picking fresh strawberries from the patch, getting their face painted, learning about bees, eating good food, taking a tour of the orchard and Historic Strawberry Mansion, and celebrating the successful spring planting season!

Everyone left with a belly full of strawberries and had the chance to enjoy a beautiful day in this neighborhood gem!

Fresh organic strawberries straight from the garden at this year’s 9th annual East Park Strawberry Fest! 

Philadelphia Orchard Project Blog

POP’s urban orchard blog continues to cover a variety of topics in ecological orchard care as well as highlight our plants, programs, partners, and volunteers.  You can follow our blog or search it for past topics.  Some recent posts include:

Read more about POP’s partnership at Tilden Middle School in our recent blog post by educator Cole Jadrosich.  

School Orchard Campaign Update

Thank you again to everyone who helped us during our School Orchard Program campaign this year! Together we were able to raise over $5,000, which supports our work in expanding opportunities for Philadelphia youth through outdoor orchard education. You can stlil contribute to this program by making a tax-deductible donation today!

Other Ways You Can Help!

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

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

Workplace donations through United Way, Earthshare, Benevity

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

Join POP’s Committees 

We’re always looking for more good volunteers for POP’s operating committees!  To help our Education Committee with developing new blog content, educational materials and curriculum, please contact Alyssa Schimmel (alyssa@phillyorchards.org).  To assist our Events Committee with organizing fundraising events or helping with outreach activities, please contact Tanya Grinblat (tanya@phillyorchards.org).  Experienced volunteers are invited to join POP’s Orchard Committee and work directly with our orchard partners; for more info contact Robyn Mello (robyn@phillyorchards.org).

Volunteer at Orchard Plantings and Events

POP’s fall event season will be announced soon!  To receive updates about upcoming volunteer opportunities, please sign up for our volunteer list on our website (phillyorchards.org/volunteer/signup).

Plant a fruit tree in celebration of a loved one for holidays, birthdays, and other occasions!

Recapping Juneberry Joy 2017!

Posted on Categories Blog, Cooking & Preservation, Harvesting, Home, Plants, POP Orchards, POPharvests, Recipes, Volunteers, Wild EdiblesTags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Juneberries ripening on the tree begin a brilliant magenta and deepen to turn a rich sweet purple

After our Juneberry Joy jubilee, we are jumping for joy! An annual tradition in its second year, Juneberry Joy is an exciting collaboration between the Philadelphia Orchard Project, volunteersand food artisans across the city.

Each year, our POP volunteers help us harvest juneberries (also known as serviceberries or saskatoons) from the many juneberry trees polka-dotting the city.  The berries are then donated to or bought by our partners, and crafted into yummy food goods to introduce yet more folks to this abundant and delicious city fruit! A portion of the proceeds from berry and food sales is donated back to POP’s community orchard programming.

A volunteer harvests berries from the tree canopy at Historic Fairhill Burial Ground

Here’s an example: Funky Fresh bought 15 lbs of berries from us to create a juneberry hopped kombucha they shared at a community market event and we used funds from their berry purchase to support our school orchard programming in the city! Students from orchard partner Tilden Middle School even came out to help pick berries from street trees lining 48th St in West Philadelphia and invented a juneberry harvest song!

Students from Tilden Middle School snack on freshly harvested fruit!

Are you jumping for joy yet too? Here are some stats to keep you stoked!

Juneberry Joy 2017 Totals:

Berries harvested: 117 lbs from 9 sites 

Volunteers engaged: 64 (plus hundreds of passersby!)

# of Juneberry Joy artisan collaborators: 9

New foods crafted: 14

That’s 117 pounds of berries, 14 Juneberry Joy dishes, and unlimited creativity! 

For berry-lovers and home bakers, Juneberry Joy provides endless inspiration for new ways to bake, cook, eat, and drink foraged fruits from POP orchards and Philly’s farmers’ markets.

Here are a few ways to bring Juneberry Joy creativity into your home kitchen during any month of the year! 

Stir up a fruit-infused sugar syrup, or a sweet-tart vinegary shrub & add it to lemonade, lattes, cocktails, beer, and more, as demonstrated by Martha bar, non-profit cafe, The Monkey & The Elephant, and Crime & Punishment Brewery. 

Like juneberries a latte? The Monkey & The Elephant featured the syrup in their cafe beverage lineup!

Infused cocktails, shrubs, and sodas at Kensington’s Martha bar.

Crime & Punishment elevates foraged fruit into the tastiest bar fare – featured here in a juneberry Berliner Weiss, and house-made biscuit with juneberry jam and clotted cream!

Share some sweets – like berry-inspired cakes, pies, and ice cream, oh my!

Magpie’s melt-in-your-mouth juneberry crumble pie. Learn the secrets of the biz with their pie-making class on Thurs. Aug 10! You don’t want to miss it!

Sweet, scrumptious, and sustainably sourced, we love what Fikira does with food and this decadent berry-topped cake!

Weckerly’s donated $1 to POP for every ice cream sandwich sold of this juneberry & buttermilk ice cream sandwich between almond cookie crust – it doesn’t get much sweeter than that!

Savor simplicity – the way POP intern Abby does: adding fresh berries to oatmeal for a memorable morning, or how Schmear It combines sweet berries with savory cheese and herbs to make that morning bagel marvelous! 

A fiber-packed breakfast studded with berries!

Let’s hear it for Schmear It! for this signature POP bagel spread combining juneberries and mint!

Want to get involved in future POPHarvest gleaning events?  Learn about new fruits and nuts, harvest for culinary experiments, meet new people, assist in harvesting donations for local food banks, share ideas for harvest locations, and contribute to POP fundraising efforts with local food businesses? Sign up for our volunteer events listserv at https://www.phillyorchards.org/volunteer/signup, request to join the POPHarvest Google Group at https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/popharvest, or email Robyn Mello, POP’s Program Director, at robyn@phillyorchards.org.

This POP Blog was written by POP 2017 intern Amy Jean Jacobs. 

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 History 2011 & Volunteer Spotlight: Robyn Mello

Posted on Categories Blog, Home, POP Orchards, VolunteersTags , , , , , , , , ,

“I am continually learning that I’m a steward to each piece of earth I touch, and my history with POP has ensured that I can not only survive, but I am able to thrive, doing what I am compelled with all of my being to do.”
-Robyn Mello, POP Orchard Director and 2011 Golden Persimmon Volunteer

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

Planting the first fruit trees at Bartram’s Garden, home of the largest community orchard in the city!

Philadelphia Orchard Project History: 2011
We launched our first ever Philadelphia Orchard Day in October 2011 with the goal to celebrate the orchard harvest and build community awareness and involvement with our partner sites.  Over 210 participated at 8 simultaneous events including harvest festivals, plantings, and work days held at POP orchard sites across the city.  2011 was also a busy year for orchard plantings, with 7 brand new sites and many expansions.  Among the highlights, POP helped plant the first fruit trees at the orchard at Bartram’s Garden, which would become the home of the largest and most diverse community orchard in the city.  POP also began to increase our educational programming in 2011, including leading multiple workshops on fruit tree pruning at partner sites across the city.

POP ORCHARDS PLANTED in 2011:  Bartram’s Garden, Earth’s Keepers, Ogden Gardens, Grumblethorpe, Calvary, Roxborough High School, Temple Presbyterian
2011 POP BOARD PRESIDENT: Michael Nairn

Cider pressing at the Village of Arts, part of the first annual Philadelphia Orchard Day in 2011


POP’s current Orchard Director, Robyn Mello, started out by volunteering at POP plantings and as a member of POP’s Orchard Committee.

At the age of 21, I had an epiphany that I was entirely dependent on global systems that were completely outside of my control, despite disagreeing with a huge percentage of their practices. I moved to Philly after college because I wanted to learn how to truly take care of myself. Simply reading about permaculture and food forests and intensive growing practices and herbal medicine wasn’t enough–I needed to do the work to understand. So I started a food forest, called Mercy Edible Park, on a dozen vacant lots in South Philadelphia. Learning the ins and outs of land policy, gentrification, city government, community organizing, racial and economic disparities, and neighborhood histories came neck and neck with learning that mugwort and bricks were the most common occupants of Philadelphia’s neglected yet abundant vacant lot green spaces.  I quickly made friends with all of the obstacles and in so doing, soon learned that growing food touches upon what it means to be truly free.

Organizing to start gardens on squatted land with various neighborhoods before and after Occupy Philly quickly found me out to lunch with Paul Glover, POP’s founder. We came to a conclusion by the end of my first work party that Paul attended which has been a mantra of mine ever since: “It’s not about overthrowing systems of oppression, it’s about ‘undergrowing’ them.” Weeding a strawberry patch with strangers that don’t look like me and come from different backgrounds has resulted in some of the most eye-opening and radical conversations I’ve ever had, not to mention an ever-expanding number of friends and allies. Growing food and community in spaces that are otherwise considered neighborhood nuisances provides a vision for a future that’s more present and connected and hopeful, and not tied to constructing yet another expensive new home and ripping holes in the fabric of a close-knit community.

Robyn with some of her favorite neighbors while Gardens Manager at POP partner site Historic Fair Hill, September 2011

I liked to think of the work I was doing on squatted lots as filling in the gaps where POP couldn’t go, based on ownership and land access (you can’t plant a permanent food forest on unstable land), but the volunteering I did with POP and the encouragement I got from Phil from the very beginning was critical to my growth and success. When I met POP Board Members Kim Jordan, Anne Taylor, and Brian Olszak at the SHARE Orchard expansion planting and planted my first peach tree with Kim in 2010, everyone very quickly felt like friends. My first ever POP event was planting the Evelyn Sanders Orchard, which I then came to tend and expand as Gardens Manager with Historic Fair Hill from early 2011 through early 2013, largely thanks to a recommendation from Phil. During my tenure with Historic Fair Hill, I also helped to organize POP’s first Orchard Day so that different celebratory harvest events could happen at POP orchards simultaneously throughout the city (stay tuned for POP’s 7th annual Orchard Week this October!).

In 2013, I was given the opportunity to start an off-grid farm in a rural area in Bucks County, so I moved from the city. By the end of that season, I realized I had made a mistake. I wasn’t ready to give up my urban life or my friends or my activism as a 25 year-old, and what I really wanted was land of my own where I could plant trees! After moving back to Philly, I attended a POP Orchard Committee meeting specifically about starting a gleaning program to make use of otherwise wasted fruit in the city. Lo and behold, this was exactly what I had wanted to do while farming, having learned that nearly half of all produce grown in the United States goes uneaten every year despite 1 in 6 Americans being food insecure, more and more arable land being destroyed, and 65% of all fresh water being used to irrigate crops. We don’t need more farms or farmland, we need to prioritize better growing practices and more accessible distribution of land and food!

Just a little while after this gleaning meeting, Phil gave me a call to ask if I’d like to start working part-time as his co-worker. And would I be okay with helping to design my position, including a gleaning program? This was a total no brainer. YES! The rest, as they say, is history. I organized my first POPHarvest juneberry gleaning in early June, 2014, and I’ve had the opportunity to grow in my experience, exposure, creativity, and ability to share passion and knowledge via POP programming ever since.

The first UPenn POP juneberry harvest with Robyn as POP Staff, June 2014

I’m the type of person who needs a variety of ways to express my love and convictions, and I need a lot of freedom and flexibility to create. My ability to continually shape my role with POP over the years–as both volunteer and employee–and watch my influence on the organization as a whole feels pretty unique and special within a professional context. Additionally, the expansion of POP’s staff over the last year to include Alyssa and Tanya has continued to surprise me with how talented and supportive a team we have!

Witnessing and impacting the growth of this city’s vast network of urban eco-orchards and people attached to them has been the best gift I could imagine. In order to feel like a well-balanced human living symbiotically within an overwhelmingly complex ecosystem, in order to not crumble under the weight of the world’s inequalities and intolerances, it is crucial for me to make time for celebration, grief, and reflection. POP’s community orchards and their stewards provide this city with 57 sites throughout our collective concrete jungle that provide space for fulfilling human needs and emotions outside of fast-paced, high-stress, plugged-in, unhealthy, no-time-for-anything Northeastern cultural norms. I am continually learning that I’m a steward to each piece of earth I touch, and my history with POP has ensured that I can not only survive, but I am able to thrive, doing what I am compelled with all of my being to do.

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 and UPenn Team Up Again To Make Use of Unharvested Campus Fruits

Posted on Categories Blog, Harvesting, HomeTags , , , , ,

POPHarvest volunteer picking juneberries at POP's partner orchard at Francisville NDC
POPHarvest volunteer picking juneberries

Did you know that there are dozens of edible fruit trees planted throughout the University of Pennsylvania campus? POP and UPenn’s Facilities and Real Estate Services (FRES) collaborated for a second season to harvest from some of these underutilized trees, educating many passersby in the process.

POP has been partnering with various grassroots groups, organizations, and institutions throughout the city to design, plant, and educate around 50 biodiverse community orchards since 2007. In 2014, it expanded its programming to include POPHarvest, a fruit gleaning initiative, with UPenn as its first collaborator. Since, POPHarvest has expanded to include harvests from various street trees, “weed” trees, residential backyard trees, abandoned or neglected regional orchards, and fruit-bearing trees at our partner sites which are located outside of POP-planted community orchards.

Freshly harvested juneberries
Freshly harvested juneberries

On June 4th, about 20 people participated in a Juneberry gleaning (Amelanchier spp.) at UPenn as part of a week of gleanings at other POP orchard sites in Francisville and Fairhill. A total of 30lbs of juneberries were harvested for POP use, plus whatever everyone took home for their own kitchen experiments. West Philly’s Spruce Hill Preserves processed 20lbs of berries into jelly and donated it POP fundraising, and 10lbs went towards juneberry culinary experiments and syrups at new member-cooperative W/N W/N Coffee Bar, a business that POP has partnered with several times in 2015.

Juneberry Jelly produced by West Philly-based Spruce Hill Preserves with fruit harvested at UPenn, Francisville, and Fair Hill juneberry POPHarvest events
Juneberry Jelly produced by West Philly-based Spruce Hill Preserves with fruit harvested at UPenn, Francisville, and Fair Hill juneberry POPHarvest events

POP Juneberry compote poured over Mycopolitan King Trumpet mushrooms, prepared by W/N W/N Coffee Bar
POP Juneberry compote poured over Philly-grown Mycopolitan King Trumpet mushrooms, prepared by W/N W/N Coffee Bar

On September 29th, about 15 people got together for a UPenn Crabapple gleaning (Malus spp.) across from St. Mary’s Church on Locust Walk. Participants came from various sections of Philadelphia and South Jersey, but happily, most of them were UPenn students, faculty, and staff! The most abundant trees were just next to the UPenn student community garden, and participants were lucky enough to also glean excess lemon balm that had escaped the garden beds. Participants took home whatever they could harvest to process into jams, jellies, crisps, and other preserves, and approximately 15 pounds of crabapples were again taken to Spruce Hill Preserves for processing and POP fundraising.

POPHarvest volunteers picking crabapples at UPenn
POPHarvest volunteers picking crabapples at UPenn

It’s really educational to harvest from the same trees in multiple years and observe their changes. In 2014, the juneberry trees at UPenn were full of fruits, whereas this season, their yields were much less impressive (though Francisville and Fair Hill’s yields were explosive). Last year, POP noted a certain variety of juniper rust, a fungus, creeping into the UPenn trees, which may have had an effect, in addition to the very dry spring months in April and May 2015.

The exact opposite was true of the crabapples, which were overburdened with big, delicious fruits this season–larger than those in memory from 2014, despite the months-long drought the city experienced. The same was true of most apple tree yields seen all over the region.


Some other fruits and nuts POPHarvest has organized around are ginkgos, wineberries, persimmons, apples, Asian pears, hawthorns, and mulberries, with more varieties to come each season!

Want to get involved in future POPHarvest gleaning events to learn about new fruits and nuts, harvest for culinary experiments, meet new people, assist in harvesting donations for local food banks, share ideas for harvest locations, and contribute to POP fundraising efforts with local food businesses? Sign up for our volunteer events listserv at https://www.phillyorchards.org/volunteer/signup, request to join the POPHarvest Google Group at https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/popharvest, or email Robyn Mello, POP’s Program Director, at robyn@phillyorchards.org.

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.