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.

Links:

http://pnga.net

http://www.nynga.org/cInfo.htm

https://www.midwesthazelnuts.org/why-hazelnuts.html

https://thegleaningproject.org/

https://www.growveg.com/guides/a-guide-to-growing-your-own-hazelnuts/

http://northeastedible.com/northeast-edible-blog/a-visit-to-john-w-hersheys-defunct-tree-crops-nursery

http://blog.pennlive.com/gardening/2014/10/hershey_gardens_is_going_nuts.html

www.hundredfruitfarm.com/

www.wildridgeplants.com/

http://smallactsecodesign.blogspot.com/2017/02/the-former-site-of-john-w.html


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.  

Unusual Fruits for Philly Orchards: The Benefits of Being Different

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On February 10th 2018, more than 20 people gathered at Awbury Agricultural Village to learn about some of the “unusual” fruits that POP plants and why. There were some great takeaways from this workshop including learning more in depth about some of the less common options available to Philadelphia-based orchards. The most important piece from my perspective, was understanding that these “unusual” fruits were not just exciting because they were less common, but because they are also generally a lot easier to care for compared to common fruits.

Apples and peaches were highlighted as being among the most challenging to grow in our climate because of intense pest and disease pressure.  They and all of the other common fruits are closely related members of the Rosaceae family and are prone to a variety of growing challenges, resulting in greater need for pruning, spraying, and other maintenance requirements. 

By contrast, figs, paw paws, persimmons and other “unusual” fruits are less commonly planted, more distantly related, and much easier to grow and maintain. How much easier?  This depends on the specific plant, but most have very few pest and disease challenges and many approach our idyllic vision of fruit growing as “plant, water, and then harvest year after year”.    

So it’s one thing for certain fruits to be easier to grow, but what about the other benefits? Well, with more than 30 fruits discussed, plus a handful of nuts and some zone 8 possibilities, there’s a great variety and selection to choose from, and by incorporating a diverse array of them into your growing space, you can continue to lessen the impact of pests and diseases, which favor targeting large stands of singular plantings  (or ‘monocultures’) rather than having to scavenge through mixed plantings all over the city.

Another benefit from planting more unusual fruits is the opportunity to increase your window for harvestable fruit – beginning in May with the goumi berry, a sweet-tart berry that can be used for jellies or syrups. The goumi is a medium sized shrub that is self-fertile (meaning you only need one to produce fruit); partial-shade tolerant; and nitrogen fixing (meaning it absorbs the important nutrient nitrogen from the air and adds it to the soil near its roots, thus feeding itself and other neighboring plants).  An ideal plant for food forests!  

Native to East Asia, the goumi fruit is an early-spring producer with tart-sweet berries that have small pits and richly speckled coral-red skin.

Come June, there are many harvest options among the unusual fruit set —  including the aforementioned goumi; the mulberry, beloved by birds as the sweetest fruit; honey berry, a small shrub with blueberry like fruits; alpine strawberries, which produce crops in both June and in September/October and grow low to the ground, tolerant of partial-shade, and in addition to producing sweet berries, are also quite attractive; and of course juneberries, which get their name from the their ripening month. A true POP favorite, juneberries (also known as serviceberries) have a widespread presence in Philly as a native planting that is frequently featured as a street tree throughout the city.  

As the native Juneberry tree ripens, the berries turn from magenta into a deep blue-purple and their flavor develops with its signature blueberry-almond-cherry notes.

If you’re interested in getting a more hands-on experience with juneberries, keep a look-out for POP’s 3rd annual Juneberry Joy week in Spring 2018.  We’ll be harvesting juneberries from throughout the city with volunteers and then partnering with local businesses to feature some delicious juneberry products.

In July at the peak of summer, your options are a’plenty! Nanking cherries, black, clove, red and white currants, gooseberry, jostaberry, and beach plum are all in fruit this time of year. These mostly small and medium shrubs offer a variety of tasty, healthy fruits; nanking cherries are quite productive and ornamental; and currants are especially shade tolerant.  

2016 intern Lucia Kearney harvests Nanking cherries at Awbury Arboretum.

From August through November, another 15+ shrubs and trees enter their prime blossoming and fruit period: figs, paw paws, persimmons, jujubes, cornelian cherry, elderberries, and hardy kiwis, to name a few! 

Jujubes (aka Chinese red date) at the SHARE orchard.  This fruit has been cultivated for four thousand years and features vitamin C-rich fruit that are easy to grow and very productive!

By working with a diversity of plants, POP orchards are able to meet a wide range of needs, whether it be producing fruits for specific times of the year (useful to consider for school orchard sites) or throughout the entire year, providing benefit to the community as well as to pollinators, offering a variety of food crops that can be used to make value added products, frozen, dried, or of course eaten fresh!

One of the first trees to flower in late winter/early spring, cornelian cherry of the Dogwood family provides fodder for early pollinators like birds and bees!

It’s exciting to know that there are so many options for low-maintenance fruit-bearing shrubs and trees that provide so many different benefits to the orchard.  If you’re interested in learning more about these easy-to-grow options, below is a list in order from most recommended (for both ease of care and deliciousness) to least recommended.

Also, I would be remiss not to mention the AMAZING paw-paw pudding Phil provided at the end of the workshop – which was a real treat!

UNCOMMON FRUIT TREES (most recommended to least for ease of care and deliciousness):

  1. Fig
  2. Paw-paw
  3. Asian Pear (although a common fruit, pretty pest and disease resistant)
  4. Juneberry
  5. Asian Persimmon
  6. American Persimmon
  7. Mulberry
  8. Jujube
  9. Crab Apple
  10. Che fruit
  11. Cornelian Cherry
  12. Kousa Dogwood
  13. Trifoliate Orange (Only citrus hardy to the region)
  14. Medlar
  15. Quince

UNCOMMON FRUITING SHRUBS (most recommended to least):

  1. Nanking Cherry
  2. Goumi
  3. Red & White Currants
  4. Jostaberry
  5. Black Currants
  6. Clove Currants
  7. Gooseberry
  8. Elderberry
  9. Beach Plum
  10. Black Chokeberry
  11. Rugosa Rose (aka Rose Hips)
  12. Flowering Quince
  13. Honey Berry

UNCOMMON FRUITING VINES (most recommended to least):

  1. Hardy Kiwi
  2. Arctic Beauty Kiwi
  3. Maypop

UNCOMMON FRUITING GROUNDCOVERS:

  1. Alpine Strawberry
  2. Prickly Pear

NUT-PRODUCING TREES AND SHRUBS:

  1. Hardy Almonds (almond x peach crosses)
  2. Chestnuts and Chinquapins
  3. Hazels and Filberts
  4. Pecans and Hickories
  5. Walnuts and Heartnuts

ZONE 8 FRUITING PLANTS (require winter protection):

  1. Pomegranate
  2. Olive
  3. Chilean Guava
  4. Pineapple Guava
  5. Loquat
  6. Yuzu

NOTE: The lists above are not exhaustive- so many options!  Here is a link to the workshop slides for more details:

Unusual Fruits for Philly 

This POP blog was written by 2018 Events & Education Intern Alex Zaremba. 

Support us! 

If you find 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