Fruit Thinning & Recipes for Unripe Thinned Plums

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Dietitian Cathy Dorazio of Overbrook School for the Blind thins green plums from one of the fully loaded plum trees in the school orchard.

This time of year, most common fruit trees need thinning as they tend to overproduce fruit. Many work days that POP participates in this time of year from April – mid-June often involve thinning fruit trees to keep them healthy. The fruit that is thinned is often inedible as it needs to be thinned before it is fully ripened. However, in the case of thinned plums, and likely other fruitlets, simply cooking them down in a few forms can reduce their bitterness and transform them into a pleasant, tart addition to many recipes.

POP intern Bethany Bronkema and Overbrook’s Cathy pose with their bucket of thinned plums that they’ll incorporate into recipes at home and with the students!

Before looking at possible recipes for these green plums, it is important to know how to best thin your fruit to keep your tree healthy.  New fruit trees, meaning those planted last fall or this spring, need to have all of their fruit taken off of them to give them a chance to grow strong roots and establish themselves in the ground. Some fruit trees, like apples, pears, peaches, plums, and apricots need to be thinned out every year.  

For apples and pears, the fruit should be thinned to around 5 inches apart (roughly the distance between your outstretched pinkie finger and thumb). For peaches, that distance should be closer to 8 inches. With plums and apricots, it is necessary to thin the fruit to a few inches apart, 2-3″, to protect the branches from breaking under the weight of the fruit.

Some trees fruit in clusters.  For clusters, you should remove all but one fruit in clusters spaced the proper distance apart. Fruitlets from healthy trees can be composted on site in a hot compost pile, 120-170 degrees Fahrenheit. Fruitlets coming from trees that have previously had pest or diseases issues such as codling moth, brown rot, various types of scab or other conditions, should be bagged to trash off-site.

After you have thinned out your plum trees, check out the recipes below for some ideas on how to use the fruit!

Green Plum Jam:

One common recipe to make with sour fruit is to add a bit of sugar and cook it down into a jam. The first recipe utilizes the natural sourness of the green plums to make a nice tart jam that can be used on toast, stirred into yogurt, and in many other capacities!

For this simple recipe, only two ingredients are required. As even the unripe plums naturally contain a lot of liquid, simply cooking the plums in some sugar will produce a tasty result. Find the recipe below!


1 cup green plums, thinly diced

¾ cup granulated sugar

pinch of cinnamon (optional)


Step 1: Add the diced green plums and the sugar to a small saucepan and place over medium-high heat.

Step 2: Cook the mixture, stirring occasionally until the plums soften and the whole mixture starts to thicken.

Step 3: Continue reducing the mixture until it reaches the desired consistency.  

Note: The jam will thicken considerably after it is removed from the heat, so remove it when it still seems a little runny.  If you over-reduce the jam (it hardens too much after cooling), simply reheat it with some added water to improve the consistency.  

Jam should be refrigerated after cooling and will keep for several weeks. If you’d like to can your jam for long-term storage, here’s a good primer on the basics of canning:

Mini Blueberry Plum Galettes:

One fun idea is to use these plums as a lift to other baked summer fruit desserts.  Many fruit desserts often call for a squeeze of lemon juice to lift the flavor, and these green plums are a perfect substitute for that zesty boost.

These mini blueberry plum galettes combine the sour flavor of the green plums with the sweetness of blueberries, all encased in a pastry shell.  A yummy summer treat, the recipe is found below!

Ingredients: for 4 mini galettes

For the filling:

1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

1 cup green plums, diced

½ cup granulated sugar

½ tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 Tbs cornstarch

For the pastry shells:

Note: Feel free to substitute your favorite pie or pastry dough recipe

1 ½ cup all-purpose flour

2 Tbs granulated sugar

½ tsp salt

½ cup (1 stick) butter, cold and cubed

¼ cup water, iced

1 beaten egg (optional), for egg wash


Step 1: Preheat the oven to 375°F

Step 2: In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, and salt for the pastry shells.

Step 3: Add the butter in small cubes to the flour mixture and, using two knives or your fingers, break the butter up into the dough.

Step 4: Slowly add in the water and form the dough into a rough ball. Cover and refrigerate while preparing the filling.

Note: The dough can also be prepared by adding the flour, sugar, salt and butter to a food processor and mixing, and then adding the water.  

Step 5: Prepare the filling by mixing all ingredients together in a small bowl and then letting it sit for 5-10 minutes.  

Step 6: Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each out individually into a small circle about ¼ inch thick.  

Step 7: Divide the filling and pile an equal amount into the center of each dough circle.

Step 8: Moving around the edge of the circle, fold the edges over the fruit filling until each galette is fully sealed.  Egg wash the pastry shells if desired.

Note: To help with the folding process, make the galettes on small pieces of parchment paper and use the paper to fold the dough into the correct shape.

Step 9: Place galettes onto a greased baking tray and bake at 375°F for 25-30 mins or until golden brown.  

Green Plum Morning Muffins:

Great for breakfast or a quick snack, these muffins take the best qualities of the green plums and combine them with healthy oats and whole wheat flour for a hearty result that is a great start to any day!  

Ingredients: for 12 muffins

2 cup green plums, chopped

1 egg

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup rolled oats

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

2 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil

1 cup milk


Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350°F

Step 2: Combine the chopped green plums, egg, brown sugar, and salt in a medium sized bowl.  Let sit during the next step.  Note: Sugar and salt are desiccants.  They will draw moisture out of the green plums while they are sitting in this mixture and begin the softening process of the hard fruit.

Step 3: In a large bowl, whisk together the oats, baking soda, cinnamon, and whole wheat flour.  

Step 4: Add the oil and milk to the plum mixture and stir to combine.

Step 5: Pour the plum mixture into the dry ingredients and stir to combine.  

Step 6: Divide the muffin mixture into a 12-piece muffin tin (I like to use an ice cream scoop to do this evenly) and bake at 350°F for 30-35 mins.

While it is good orchard care practice to thin fruit trees as it helps the trees produce sweet, healthy fruit, it sometimes seems unfortunate to have to then get rid of these large quantities of thinned fruit.  In putting these recipes together, I considered how other fruits or vegetables that are naturally hard, sour, and bitter (such as rhubarb) are used in baking to produce delicious products. Feel free to try out these ideas, as well as experiment on your own with how thinned fruit can add a new twist to your favorite recipes!

This POP Blog Post was written by 2019 POP Intern Bethany Bronkema.  

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:

2018 School Orchard Program Recap & A Look Ahead to 2019

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In 2018, POP’s School Orchard Program continued to expand in offering unique, engaging, and hands-on learning activities for students, centered in 9 of 12 POP partner school orchards. In total, we offered 26 unique topical lessons, created 6 downloadable lesson and material packs for teachers to use in their classrooms, made 440 total student impressions through staff visits and lesson plan delivery, and created pre- and post-school year surveys to collect orchard metrics that have value for structuring our programming. All of our delivered programming is centered around our school partners’ learning objectives of those of their students and communities.

Last year, we developed and delivered lessons on key orchard fruits and pollinator orchard herbs like blackberries, persimmons, bee balm, anise hyssop, and thyme, that have high nutrient and medicinal value, are well-adapted to this growing region, propagate easily, and have promise for small-scale home or community food production. Students at Sayre High School in West Philly and Richard Allen Preparatory School learned the Japanese traditional persimmon string-drying method of hoshigaki. We experimented with the astringent Hachiya and non-astringent Fuyu varieties, finding them to work equally as well, and less so with the American persimmon, whose softer flesh makes it better suited for puddings and breads!

Sixth and eighth graders at Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School peel persimmons as the first step in string-drying, using the traditional Japanese method of hoshigaki.
Two weeks later, students at Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School test the progress of their drying persimmons.
Students at Sayre High School get ready to add their strung persimmons to their drying window of garden-grown herbs and peppers

In 2018, we also honored the life of Roseann McLaughlin, the beloved, foundational visionary behind Overbrook School for the Blind’s Farm-to-Table Program. Continuing in her legacy through GrowAbility, we continued to work with a consortium of 10 organizational partners working to adapt orchard and agricultural curriculum for special needs students. POP created sensory lesson books and tactile prop boxes on honeybees, worms, apples, and herbs of the orchard understory, which are being adapted and replicated at partner sites all over the city.

Overbrook School for the Blind’s Lee Stough leads students on a full sensory journey of the honeybee, using POP’s story book and interactive, tactile prop box.

Using art, dance, and music, we delivered kinesthetic-focused lessons at new orchard partners like William Cramp Elementary School in North Philly, where students learned about root structures while tending to the weeds in their school’s orchards and danced the different structures they found! With support from Mural Arts, students also made collaborative exquisite corpse drawings, drawing themselves as part-humans, part-plants while learning about the functional parts of plants. With retired-but-returning teacher Dr. Ruiz, an incredibly knowledgeable resource and student advocate, students learned how to make egg shell gardens and how to seed plants from avocado pits, a common staple for many of the school’s students. We continue to use art to facilitate students’ understanding of the natural and built environment.

Cramp Elementary School’s Dr. Ruiz prepares for a lesson on egg-shell gardening with 4th grade students.

In 2019, POP’s School Orchard Program has identified two key learning initiatives: education around protecting pollinator habitats, and work on natural dyes and pigments. This winter, we’re welcoming 4 undergraduate environmental studies students from Swarthmore for 10 weeks, who will be working with us on researching the crisis of pollinator population decline and ways we can intercept through the seeding of useful host plants. We’ll be working on a large seed ball project to seed these plants in the gardens and understories of our school partners, in addition to making these resources available to the wider community. We’ll be piloting a natural dyeing component with several schools this year, which will include a fall student showcase. This year we’ve also begun to work more closely with the Mayor’s Office of Education; through their work with community schools and includes several of our school partners, we’ll be creating a database of some simple garden projects for teachers and students, and sharing our newly created nutrition and recipe cards for use with classrooms and school food pantries, available in both English and Spanish (with special thanks to Camille Crane of Casa del Carmen for translating!).

If you are interested in getting involved in any of these school orchard initiatives, please reach out to 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:  Our School Orchard Program is funded in part by the Lawrence Saunders Fund and the Rosenlund Family Foundation.

Orchard Partner Stories: a look back at 2018

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

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

Norris Square Neighborhood Project

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

— Marian Dalke

Richard Allen Prep Charter School

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

Jenny Dunker

Sankofa Community Farm @ Bartram’s Garden

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

— Tyler Holmberg

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

FNC Learning Farm @ 8th & Poplar

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

— Marta Lynch

One Art

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

— Malaika Gilpin

Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House- Erie

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

-Carolann Costa

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

Wyck Historic House

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

— Martha Keen

Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission Farm

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

 Meei Ling Ng

St. Bernard Community Garden

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

 TJ Hunt

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

Casa del Carmen

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

— Camille Crane

Hunting Park Community Garden

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

— Michael Wilcox

Philadelphia Montessori Charter School

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

 Letitia C Biddle

Pentridge Children’s Garden

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

— Owen Taylor

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

Union Baptist Church Garden of Eden

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

— Meei Ling Ng

Penn Alexander

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

— Stephanie Kearney

Overbrook School for the Blind

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

-Lee Stough

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

Weavers Way Farms- Mort Brooks & Henry Got Crops

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

— Nina Berryman 

Pastorius Community Garden

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

— Vita Litvak


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

Michael Muehlbauer 

Fairmount Park Horticulture Center Food Forest

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

— Michelle Lawson

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

Kleinlife Community Center 

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

— John Eskate

Jewish Farm School Garden

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

— Nati Passow

Cloud 9 @ Guild House West

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

— Rania Campbell-Bussiere

Historic Fair Hill

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

— Jean Warrington

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

Teaching Tomorrow’s Tenders – POP’s School Orchard Update Spring-Summer 2018

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High school students in the summer program at Sayre High School practice their culinary skills by chopping cabbage to make sauerkraut — learning fermentation as a food preservation method used for preserving the harvest.

We’ve had a busy and bountiful spring season with POP’s School Orchard program and community educational initiatives. Since January, we’ve delivered 17 lessons to 6 school orchard partners (William L. Sayre High School, William T. Tilden Middle School, Henry C. Lea Elementary School, Overbrook School for the Blind, Penn Alexander School, John F. Hartranft School) and reached 210 students.


In early spring we released a quantitative and qualitative survey to our 12 school partners to receive feedback on the learning priorities and desired outcomes of each unique program so that we might offer meaningful and objective-aligned programatic services to partners. In addition to increasing engagement — getting more students out and into the school orchards to plant, maintain, and harvest from the orchards — school educators identified goals of building responsible students leaders who are literate and actively engaged in food systems work, and integrating school day programming through the gardens (Sayre HS, West Philly), to cultivating independent stewardship and increasing product creation (Tilden MS, West Philly), to having students actively engaged in the natural environments of the school grounds and understanding storm water management and natural technologies (Lea ES, West Philly).

Megan Brookens, POP’s Repair the World Fellow ’17-’18, assists second graders at Lea Elementary School in seeding plants representing the different parts of the plant we harvest for food: root, leaf, flower, and fruit.

To meet these aims this season, some of the lessons we offered included:
  • creating value-added products from the orchard: herbal tea bags and salves, wild edible identification and making infused vinegars
  • food preservation methods and traditions: sauerkraut fermentation
  • direct orchard-care topics including plant propagation; pruning; planting annual fruiting crops; planting by seed, start, and cuttings; and treating pest and disease with organic management practices.
We also created dynamic sensory-activity storybooks on honeybees and earthworms for use with students at Overbrook School for the Blind, which will be released as downloadable PDFs in a forthcoming POP blog. The honeybee lesson guidebook will be adapted for pilot use with 10 special needs classrooms citywide this fall through the GrowAbility Education Collective which joins partners including Overbrook School for the Blind, Elwyn, Easterseals, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Penn State Master Gardeners, Greener Partners, Philadelphia Free Library’s Culinary Literacy Center, 4-H, Associated Services for the Blind, in adapting agricultural curriculum for special needs communities.

Students at Overbrook School for the Blind planted strawberries in the school’s courtyard Farm-to-Table garden.

Later this summer through fall, POP will also unveil a new community education initiative in conjunction with our POPHarvest gleaning program – which will host community teachers from a range of traditions to lead workshops geared around underutilized fruits and herbs of our orchards. Look out for classes on Caribbean foodways and cooking – spotlight on thyme and burdock with Nyambi Royster of Lighthouse Orchard; herbal oxymel making with Kelly McCarthy of Attic Apothecary; trifoliate fire cider making with Al Pascal of Fikira Bakery; gingko history and nut processing with naturalist LJ Brubaker; and hawthorn medicine making with Julia Aguilar. If you’re interested in leading a community workshop, reach out to Education Director Alyssa Schimmel ( and Orchard Director Michael Muehlbauer (

This POP program update 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:

Orchard Partner Stories: a look back at 2017

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Every year we ask our orchard partners to reflect on the season and to share stories with us about what the orchard provides for their community. Below are some of our favorite excerpts from 2017 celebrating the beauty, abundance, and power of orchards to serve as an engaging place of discovery and connection.


FNC Learning Farm @ 8th & Poplar

We have three sweet cherry trees that had a great harvest this year. Fruit gets a lot more attention & excitement than vegetables, which spread to our surrounding community. The cherry harvesting was a large gathering event, and we had people of all ages picking off cherries. Many people did not know that cherries came from trees. A lot of neighborhood children got to climb the tree to pick off the cherries, which one of them told me was a “magical experience”.

— Marta Lynch

Cherry harvest at FNC Learning Farm

Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House – Erie Branch

We had a family stay with us from the midwest with a 10 year old wheelchair bound patient. The patient was upset because she had to miss her field trip to a farm while she was in Philly receiving treatment. We asked her to help us pick strawberries and June berries from our orchard. She was very happy to help!

Later in the season we had quite a few international families staying with us. The families loved to cook their own food. We introduced them to the herb garden and they loved it! A few of the families used the medicinal herbs for teas and poultices.

Many families, staff and volunteers were able to taste a fresh fig for the first time! They were all surprised at the difference between a fresh fig and a fig newton.

Carolann Costa


PhillyEarth @ The Village of Arts & Humanities

This year was one of the largest peach harvests we have ever had. Our students had an opportunity to make peach cobbler with freshly harvested peaches and many neighborhood residents were regularly harvesting peaches for their families.

— Jon Hopkins


Pastorius Community Gardens

Along the edge of the garden we planted a row of raspberries during the Spring planting. They filled out wonderfully and bore tons of fruit all throughout the growing season. Our gardeners were delighted, and several of them who manage their diabetes, were especially happy to have a source of a healthy berry sugar substitute. Because we don’t have a fence, lots of visitors to the garden got to pick the berries and partake in their delicious flavor. Their taste often surprised people, not at all the store-bought berry!

— Vita Litvak

Berry vision at Overbrook School for the Blind!

Overbrook School for The Blind

This year our Fig trees did well and the two students who were working Farm to Table were very excited. They graduated but came back to volunteer for our Garden clean-up weekend and they were thrilled to see all the ripe figs. They harvested the figs and Anthony’s Restaurant in Drexel Hill agreed to buy them. The 2 students went with the staff person to deliver the figs to the restaurant. The students were very proud and excited. Anthony’s even put a picture of the figs on their website!

— Roseann McLaughlin


Awbury Arboretum

I can tell you from first hand experience that the fruits from the orchard are a huge draw for visitors at the Ag Village. Youngsters are much more inclined to try fruits or herbs, than they are vegetables. Volunteers from Teen Inc said “no thanks” to veggies but specifically asked for fruit to try.  POP’s figs were just the ticket. That was their snack after a couple of hours of volunteer service late one afternoon in September. The kids were so grateful, more so I feel, then if I gave them something “packaged”.

That fig tree is like a burning bush in the desert! Everyone loves to stand around it to pick and eat the fruit, and because it fruits over a long stretch of time, and the fruit is often in various stages of development, I like to describe how to tell when the fruit is ripe.  

— Leslie Cerf


Edible Belmont

Yesterday we saw a woman marveling at a persimmon on the sidewalk and looking around to find the source. She excitedly stuck it in her purse and flagged us down when she saw us on the porch. “Do you know what this is?” she exclaimed. “My son just brought one of these home from school and I had never seen it before. I couldn’t believe it when I saw this tree!”

Abundant persimmon harvest at Preston’s Paradise in Edible Belmont.

Weavers Way Farm

This was by far the best year for our paw paw trees! We introduced the fruit to so many people at our farm market. People who were already familiar with the fruit were ecstatic to see it on the table, and people who were not familiar with it were intrigued to give it a try!

— Nina Berryman



The week after memorial day, it had been raining all weekend, and my first day back to the orchard I noticed a bunch of clumps under our oak trees in our wood chip patch. Upon further inspection, the clumps were loads of wine-cap mushrooms!! We had inoculated the wood chip patch in the orchard the previous fall, but I had all but given up after I had expected mushrooms to come up in April. That week, our Cook for a Friend program prepared loads of wine-cap mushroom soup and gravy with our meals that benefit homebound older adults. The mushrooms were gorgeous in color, tasted great, and kept coming up for a couple of weeks — it was such a delight!

—John Eskate


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

Orchard Partner Stories: a look back at 2016

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Every year we ask our orchard partners to reflect on the season and to share stories with us about what the orchard provides for their community. Below are some of our favorites excerpts from 2016 celebrating the beauty, abundance, and power of orchards to serve as an engaging place of discovery and connection.


Historic Fair Hill

This year, our tiny little asian pear trees fruited. We planted them two years ago. Each pear was perfect. We must have harvested 20 lbs of pears–and those are only the ones that I was around for! Many neighbors for about two weeks were walking around, munching on pears. For two more weeks, I had people coming up to me saying, “Are there any of those pears left? They are so good!” I told them that in five years there would be more fruit growing here than we can imagine. They’d always smile like they were watching something incredible far away.  I like seeing people imagine their fruit trees five years bigger.

— Staff Gardener

The sweet-tart fruit of the nitrogen-fixing goumi at Awbury Arboretum.
The sweet-tart fruit of the nitrogen-fixing goumi at Awbury Arboretum.

Awbury Arboretum

I remember bringing a regularly visiting Awbury volunteer group of men to the POP orchard one summer day last year to help. We were weeding I think.  It seemed sort of boring at first, but then someone offered us to try goumi berries off a bush that was full and ripe with the berries. At first my group was hesitant, saying they had never heard of the fruit, but I think  all the men and everyone else there eventually tried the goumis, and this had an interesting effect our experience that day in the orchard.
We began to talk about fruits we liked growing up, remembering what plants our families grew in their gardens, and sharing almost forgotten herbal home remedies for illnesses our parents gave to us. 
The time we spent in the orchard that day helped us get to know each other more and  brought us closer together. I can see how gardening is a comfort and life changing at the same time. It reminds us of so much; yet it also spurs us to take hold of the present and dare ourselves. It helps us to try new things and to still reflect on our experiences and learn more about ourselves and each other.

— Leslie Cerf


Overbrook School for The Blind

Our students were able to taste figs for the first time from our fig tree. They would check the tree almost daily to get the figs before the squirrels! In late November, we made fig jam with the students. To quote our student, Elijah, when he tasted the jam: “It’s the bomb dot com!”

— Roseann McLaughlin


Tulpehocken Station Orchard

One Saturday, when a few volunteers were working in our train station garden, a woman using a cane appeared among us with a hand outstretched. It turned out she is a neighbor who is a retired professional gardener and now takes the train every morning to Chestnut Hill to spend time at the library and at other favorite haunts. She remembered when the train station grounds were a dump (literally), and said she loves what we have been doing to make it beautiful. She wished she could volunteer to work with us, but her physical limitations prevented that, so instead she handed us a check for $100–a big deal for our small coffers!

— Marjorie Russell


Pentridge Children’s Garden

Every year, including this one, the neighborhood kids have their eyes on the apple trees for ripe fruit. As soon as they start sizing up, they come through the gates excited to bring some home to their families. We have to be careful that we wait until they are truly ripe, but we do let them try them as they ripen so they can compare different stages. Some kids down the block from a Laotian family bring home some under-ripe fruits for processing. The garden is therefore a symbolic and actual source of abundance and joy for the kids and families who live nearby.  

— Owen Taylor

Volunteers planting a rain garden including a variety of edible plants at Lea Elementary.
Volunteers at Lea Elementary planting a rain garden including a variety of edible plants.

Lea Elementary

Our orchard empowers exploration. The Edible Fruit Forest rests in a school yard. Built and supported, mostly, by the community, the school attendants, from student to staff, [initially] paid it no attention. They hadn’t yet noticed that the space being developed on their grounds was for them and their use. Now, there are teachers touring, students exploring, and staff stooping under trees for lunch, noticing and acknowledging the space in simple, interactive ways.

— Kaamilah Milton


Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission

This year, we had a lot more raspberries to harvest and share. We served the raspberries in small cups to the guests that came for meals. Most of the guests had never tried raspberries before, so they were really appreciative that we shared these fresh harvested fruits with them. It is also popular after their lunch for a healthy snack. We never felt this happy to share.

We have transformed part of the farm as a seating area. This space is important for the men in the Overcomers program to have a quiet and safe place to go and relax their minds. Visitors, volunteers and staff love to use this space to have lunch, gathering, and connect.

— Meei Ling Ng


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