PLANT SPOTLIGHT: Black Walnut (Juglans nigra)

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

Black Walnut (Juglans nigra)

Tree Facts

Black Walnut  (Juglans Nigra) is a perennial, stone fruit tree native to Eastern North America, commonly found in riparian zones (area between water and land).  Technically the walnut produces a fruit called a “drupe” and is not a true nut! The drupes are harvested in the fall, dehulled and dried to allow the nut meat to cure for consumption.  This tree can grow very large, eventually reaching over 100’ in height and 6’ in diameter. The black walnut is a member of the Juglandaceae family. Careful consideration should be made before planting or growing around this tree as it is allelopathic, suppressing growth of many other plant species by releasing a chemical called juglone. The black walnut contains the highest concentration of juglone in the nut hulls, roots, and leaves and is commonly used as an herbicide.  This tree has numerous uses, such as: nutritional, medicinal, dye, structural/decorative, antibacterial, and herbicidal.


Seasonal Care-

The black walnut tree grows well between zones 5a-9a.  Commonly found natively near water, these trees prefer deep rich soil, moist yet well drained. Black Walnut is self fertile, but puts on a better fruit set with two trees. It is generally easy to grow with little attention needed.  

Winter/ Spring: Pruning is generally not necessary. Compost or organic fertilizer can be added in the Spring to maximize nut production.

Summer: The first year, a Black Walnut tree should be irrigated every week with 3-5 gallons of water. Once established, the tree generally only needs watering during severe drought.

Fall: Fruit is generally harvested from the ground, dehulled and allowed to dry for a few weeks before cracking the nut and consuming/storing the nut meat.


Nutritional Benefit:

Black Walnuts are packed with nutrients and are considered a superfood.  They contain one of the highest protein contents of any nut (7 grams per serving), as well as high levels of Manganese, Omega-3, antioxidants and other nutrients.  The nutritional content supports metabolism and bone structure, and can help protect against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain neurodegenerative conditions.


Propagating Black Walnut Trees:

As previously noted, Black Walnuts are toxic to a variety of plants and research should be done prior to planting to understand the effects that Black Walnut will have in that area.  Black Walnuts are best propagated by seed, collecting the fruit in the fall dehulling and immediately placing 5-6 whole nuts, 5-6” in the ground. Protect the nuts from animals, by placing chicken wire or cloth over the nuts and securing to the ground.  Cover with leaves/mulch and be sure to properly label location. In the spring remove the protective cover and water the sapling every week with 3-5 gallons of water.


Processing Black Walnuts for Nutmeat

  • Pick nuts up off the ground as soon as possible by hand or nut wizard. It is best to process nuts while the hull is mostly green to avoid mold and astringent nutmeat.
  • Use gloves to handle and de-hull the nuts. They will stain your fingers. They will also stain concrete for a period of time, clothing, and other surfaces.
  • Remember that walnut hulls halve a chemical called “juglone” that suppresses the growth of certain plants, so be mindful of where you take your hulls and wash water
  • Remove green hulls with hammer, knife, or strong hands (some people step on them or even drive over them covered in a tarp!). If hulls are too tough to work, let soften for a few days or buy a de-huller!
  • If you encounter worms when removing hulls, do not be alarmed as they do not affect the nut meat inside the inner shell
  • Rinse de-hulled walnuts to remove debris however you wish. A simple method is to fill a 5-gallon bucket with water and agitate a batch of nuts with a hoe, cement mixer, or by hand three times. Discard nuts that float, a legendary sign of likely spoilage.
  • Spread cleaned nuts out in a single layer to dry for 2-4 weeks. Make sure you do this in an area that squirrels absolutely cannot get to, as they will find a way to steal your nuts. Squirrels broke into Michael’s outdoor solar dehydrator this year because the openings didn’t have thick enough wire mesh! Some people swear that forced heat drying black walnuts at 95-100 deg F for 3-4 days is best for flavor and storage. Turn the shells every so often throughout the drying process.
  • Dried nuts can be stored in shell in a cool, dry location. They can be also be frozen until ready for use. Shelled nuts can be stored in a fridge or freezer for longer shelf life, and salt brining with further dehydration is a way to store walnuts longer at room temperature.
  • To crack black walnuts, do not use a regular nut cracker. It will break. Use a nut cracker that is made for black walnuts, or use a vice grip, or hammer with good hand eye coordination. You’ll want a nut pick or small scraping device to remove the nut meat from the cracked shell.
Volunteers de-husking black walnuts at a POPharvest gleaning workshop at The Woodlands in West Philadelphia.

Black Walnut Recipes!

  1. Basic Black Walnut Pie 
  2. Black Walnut Hummingbird Cake (Cream Cheese Frosting)
  3. Black Walnut Cinnamon Ice Cream
  4. Black Walnut Fudge 
  5. Black Walnut Chicken Quiche 

**Click HERE for more delicious black walnut recipes!!**


Processing Black Walnuts for Dye, Wood Stain, and Ink

  • Add green hulls to a stainless steel pot of water (We used the first rinse water from the above process).
  • Simmer for at least 30 minutes. For darker colors simmer longer, add more hulls, and even boil down the liquid.
  • Cool the liquid and strain through muslin bag or other cloth.
  • Test the strength of the dye/stain/ink. If darker color desired, return to step 2. Be careful not to scorch the liquid if boiling it down.
  • Store liquid in a glass jar or bottle, and add 100 proof vodka or rubbing alcohol (up to 1:4 ratio) to prevent mold and preserve for later use. The liquid will mold after a while if untreated.
  • Experiment with tie-dye or other fabric dying methods, black walnut as a wood stain, and as ink! Fabrics dye a cocoa brown and do not require a pre-mordant for dye to set as with other dyes. Wood stain is a light brown that can me made darker by concentrating the liquid.
Black Walnut tie-dye and wood-staining demos at POPharvest workshop.


Black Walnuts as Medicine

Black walnut hulls contain very powerful medicine that has been used for a variety of conditions including intestinal worms in humans and animals, while it must also be approached with caution. It is also a natural source of iodine. Do not attempt to use black walnut medicine without first consulting professional medical practitioners and clinical herbalists.


This POP Blog was written by 2018 POP Intern Greg Hample and Orchard Director Michael Muehlbauer with assistance from Admin Assistant Natalie Agoos. 

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.


Links for more info:

https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_juni.pdf

https://www.instructables.com/id/Forage-and-process-your-own-black-walnuts/

https://www.instructables.com/id/Black-Walnut-Harvesting-Processing/

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

Posted on Categories Blog, Home, Plant Profiles, Plants, PropagationTags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 

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

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

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

What is The USDA ARS Apple Collection?

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

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

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

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

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

What are the apples like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dreams do come true!
Dreams do come true!

How can you help with this work?

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

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

Photos (More Resources Below)

The first apple we sampled had deep red flesh and would make a wonderful pink cider. The fruit and leaves of this tree were high in anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant commonly found in blueberries.
The first apple we sampled had deep red flesh and would make a wonderful pink cider. The fruit and leaves of this tree were high in anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant commonly found in blueberries.
Some wild apples grow along the ground with a serious weeping habit.
Some wild apples grow along the ground with a serious weeping habit.
A wild Malus toringa leaf-shape
A wild Malus toringa leaf-shape
A view of the taller, more forested-feeling wild specimen area.
A view of the taller, more forested-feeling wild specimen area.
Some of the seed-grown wild specimens had very different leafing patterns than our commonly viewed apple leaves.
Some of the seed-grown wild specimens had very different leafing patterns than our commonly viewed apple leaves.
Our tour was cut short by a rainstorm.
Our tour was cut short by a rainstorm.
The hybrid cultivar "Ottawa 11" was abundant and beautiful.
The hybrid cultivar “Ottawa 11” was abundant and beautiful.

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"Hordapfel" cultivar had beautiful and large purple-veined leaves.
“Hordapfel” cultivar had beautiful and large purple-veined leaves.
Malus hybrid "Eleyi" with pink flesh
Malus hybrid “Eleyi” with pink flesh
Lady Williams cultivar
Lady Williams cultivar

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The "Belle de Boskoop" cultivar was huge and delicious!
The “Belle de Boskoop” cultivar was huge and delicious!
Malus x robusta "Korea"
Malus x robusta “Korea”
Malus x hartwigii
Malus x hartwigii
Malus fusca - Oregon or Pacific crabapple
Malus fusca – Oregon or Pacific crabapple
Malus bhutanica aka Malus toringoides - cut-leaf crabapple - is native to China and has extremely tannic, astringent qualities similar to the effect of eating an underripe American persimmon.
Malus bhutanica aka Malus toringoides – cut-leaf crabapple – is native to China and has extremely tannic, astringent qualities similar to the effect of eating an underripe American persimmon.
Malus hupuhensis - Tea crabapple - The different colors of bark in the orchard are also stunning!
Malus hupuhensis – Tea crabapple – The different colors of bark in the orchard are also stunning!
Malus ioensis "Bechtel Crab" - Prairie crabapple
Malus ioensis “Bechtel Crab” – Prairie crabapple
Malus ioensis "Texana" - Texas crabapple
Malus ioensis “Texana” – Texas crabapple
Malus florentina - Hawthorn-leaf or Florentine crabapple
Malus florentina – Hawthorn-leaf or Florentine crabapple
Malus coronaria - Sweet crabapple
Malus coronaria – Sweet crabapple

imag0713 imag0709 imag0706 imag0703 imag0699 img_0085 img_0084

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The orchard in all its glory
The orchard in all its glory
The Calville Blanc cultivar, with yellow skin and flesh, was one of the first and best apples I sampled.
The Calville Blanc cultivar, with yellow skin and flesh, was one of the first and best apples I sampled.
The orange-skinned domestic cultivars were consistently delicious!
The orange-skinned domestic cultivars were consistently delicious!

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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.

MORE RESOURSES

Some Disease Resistant Apple Cultivars

The ReZista Collection

Topaz

Crimson Crisp

Liberty

Enterprise

Pixie Crunch

Honeycrisp

Goldrush

http://extension.missouri.edu/p/G6026

Organic apple production websites

Michael Phillips’ Holistic Orcharding Site – http://www.groworganicapples.com/

Organic Apple books – http://www.groworganicapples.com/organic-orchard-books/

http://extension.psu.edu/plants/sustainable/news/2009/10/6organicapple

http://www.agmrc.org/media/cms/omapple_5E5179AB39A2F.pdf

http://ucanr.edu/sites/placernevadasmallfarms/files/112366.pdf

http://www.fruit.cornell.edu/tree_fruit/GPGeneral.html

Sources of Knowledge and Heritage/Resistant Apple Varieties

Lee Calhoun – Southern Heritage Apple Collection

John Bunker – Super Chilly Farm and FedCo Trees, Maine

Oregon Heritage Farm

North Star Orchard – PA

Orange Pippin – England Database, maybe available in USDA Collection

Susan Brown, Apple Breeding Program, Cornell – https://hort.cals.cornell.edu/people/susan-brown

Seedsavers Exchange – http://www.seedsavers.org/

University of Minnesota Apple Varieties – http://mnhardy.umn.edu/varieties/fruit/apples

Washington State University Apple Breeding – http://dialogue.tfrec.wsu.edu/breed/

USDA And Global Fruit Research Resources

ARS Geneva website – https://www.ars.usda.gov/northeast-area/geneva-ny/plant-genetic-resources-research/

Google Scholar (for USDA Research articles) – https://scholar.google.com/

USDA Plant Collection Database – GRIN Global – http://www.grin-global.org/

ARS Geneva Apple Collection Catalog – https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/80600500/ClonalCatalogs/2016/MCatalog16.pdf

(Best to search by PI number)

Apple Rootstock Breeding Program – https://www.ars.usda.gov/northeast-area/geneva-ny/plant-genetic-resources-research/docs/national-apple-rootstock-breeding-program/

Global Fruit News from Yentzen Group – http://www.freshfruitportal.com/

Good Fruit Grower Magazine – http://www.goodfruit.com/

 

 

Plant Spotlight: The Joyful Juneberry (Amelanchier spp)

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

By 2016 POP Intern, Lucia Kearney.

It’s June, and that means a piece of good news for us all: the juneberries are ripening! While this is making some of us leap up and down doing happy dances, I’m sure it’s also making some ask, “What the heck’s a juneberry?!”

Great question. Read all about them below, come to some of our five scheduled harvests, and eat them in various awesome products created by Philadelphia-area food and beverage businesses we’re partnering with during this month’s POPHarvest Juneberry Joy Celebration!  Also join the POPHarvest Google Group for community harvest updates now and forever! Now, onto it…

These are juneberries:

Juneberry 1

And this is a juneberry tree in flower:

Juneberry 2

The juneberry (also known as serviceberry, shadberry, sarvis, sarvisberry, snowy mespilus, shadblow, maycherry, shadbush, shadblossom, shadflower, sugar pea, wild pear, lancewood, boxwood, Canadian medlar, chuckley pear, and Saskatoon), is a large shrub (minus a few tree-like species such as A. Canadensis, A. lamarchii, and A. laevis) ranging in height from 16 to 32 feet. Juneberries are native to North America, are very hardy and adaptable, and are usually found growing at woodland edges, stream banks, and in hedges. At least one species is native to every state in the US except for Hawaii.

Juneberries have slender limbs, and scaly bark ranging in color from gray to brown. White, five-petaled flowers bloom in April or May at the same time that leaves begin to emerge. Flowers grow in racemes on last year’s grow, meaning that flowers grow on separate stalks evenly spaced along the branch:

Juneberry 3
Raceme diagram

Juneberries are partially self-fertile, meaning that having more than one is not necessary but will increase fruit yields. They are pollinated by bees and other insects. Fruits are round, about .3-.7 inches across, and are usually dark purple in color (they look and taste similar to blueberries). As you’ve probably guessed, they usually ripen in June. [On a side note, some people believe that the name ‘serviceberry’ came about because these trees would be blooming around the same time that the ground would be soft enough to hold services to bury people who had died over the winter.]

Uses

Juneberries (or serviceberries, or shadberries, or whatever) make for good eating. Fruits are edible across all species and are sweet and juicy. Some species produce fruit that is better for eating raw, while others produce fruit more well-suited to making jams or wine. The seeds can also be eaten and have an almond-like flavor. Recipes abound, from pies and jams, to muffins, sauce, pudding, and juneberry crisp. Check out some recipes here.

Juneberry 4
Juneberry muffins

Juneberries are also a key ingredient in pemmican (or pemikan), a staple food for Native Americans north of Missouri and Nebraska. Pemmican is a made by mixing dried and powdered meat, fat, and dried, ground juneberries together; it’s a high calorie, long-lasting food that was often taken on long hunting trips and was later adopted by European backwoodsmen. You can check out a recipe here. South of Missouri and Nebraska, many Native American groups mixed juneberries with cornmeal to make cakes and added juneberries to stews.

Juneberry 5
Pemmican

Juneberry wood is hard and heavy, and has a reddish-brown heartwood; Native Americans used it for making tool handles, fishing rods, and arrow shafts. Members of the Pit River Tribe in California also used juneberry wood to make body armor.

Medicinal Uses

Traditionally, juneberries have been used primarily for food but have been used medicinally as well (food and medicine, of course, are intertwined, and in many ways are one in the same). Native peoples of Canada used to steep the bark in tea to ease stomach troubles, and a tea made from the bark and twigs was given to mothers to aid with recovery after childbirth. Used in combination with other plants, parts of the juneberry tree were also traditionally used as a contraceptive.

Nutrition

Juneberries are an excellent source of iron; one serving contains around 23% of the daily recommended intake, which is almost twice the amount contained in blueberries. They also have a lower water content than blueberries, meaning that they have higher concentrations of proteins, carbs, and lipids. They are high in phenolic compounds, which in recent studies have been found to play an important role in cancer prevention and treatment. They also contain relatively high amounts of potassium, which can help to prevent and ease muscle cramps, as well as large amounts of magnesium and phosphorous. They have similar levels of vitamin C, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, folate, vitamin A, and vitamin E as blueberries. Given that blueberries are often considered a superfood, juneberries have quite the nutritional repertoire.

Cultivation 

While they prefer soil that is moist and fertile, juneberries will thrive in almost any soil, and will tolerate part shade. Here in Philly, we’ve seen highly productive yet neglected street trees planted essentially in rubble or gravel! Juneberries are generally easy to grow and require little care; it is usually unnecessary to prune them, unless you have a grafted variety that sends out vigorous rootstock suckers. Trees that get plenty of sun will fruit the best. They are usually propagated via grafting or seed. Cornell university recommends specifically planting Amelanchier alnifolia species, which produces the best and most fruit. Named varieties such as ‘Smoky’, ‘JB-30’, ‘Martin’, ‘Northline’, ‘Regent’, and ‘Pembina’ are recommended for the northeast.

Juneberry seeds
Juneberry seeds

Seeds require a 3-5 month period of cold stratification, ideally followed by scarification or a four-week warm stratification. Some varieties of juneberries can be grafted onto rowan trees.

Pests and Diseases

While juneberries are hardy and suffer from few diseases, you may find yourself competing with birds for the fruit once it begins ripening. Caterpillars from various moths also feed on juneberry trees, though usually not too heavily. Trunk borers can also affect juneberries, and in some years, when late juneberry flowers overlap with wild roses and brambles, bees may spread bacterial fireblight. In recent years, POPHarvest has additionally seen some time of Amelanchier-Juniper rust (similar to Cedar Hawthorn or Cedar Apple Rust) affecting trees during our harvests.

Let’s get out there and harvest some juneberries!

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

Disclaimer

The Philadelphia Orchard Project stresses that you should not consume parts of any wild edible plants, herbs, weeds, trees,​ or bushes until you have verified with your health professional that they are safe for you. As with any new foods that you wish to try, it is best to introduce them slowly into your diet in small amounts.

The information presented on this website is for informational, reference, and educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as a substitute for diagnosis and treatment by a health care professional. Always consult a health care professional or medical doctor when suffering from any health ailment, disease, illness, or injury, or before attempting any traditional or folk remedies. Keep all plants away from children. As with any natural product, they can be toxic if misused.

To the best of our knowledge,​ the information contained herein is accurate and we have endeavored to provide sources for any borrowed​ material. Any testimonials on this web site are based on individual results and do not constitute a warranty of safety or guarantee that you will achieve the same results.

Neither the Philadelphia Orchard Project nor its employees, volunteers, or website contributors may be held liable or responsible for any allergy, illness,​ or injurious effect that any person or animal may suffer as a result of reliance on the information contained on this website nor as a result of the ingestion or use of any of the plants mentioned ​herein.

Sources

Trees for Gardens, Orchards and Permaculture by Martin Crawford

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scarification_(botany)

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

http://www.cooks.com/rec/doc/0,1-1,juneberry,FE.html

http://www.practicalprimitive.com/skillofthemonth/pemmican.html

http://www.juneberries.org/2011/11/juneberry-nutrition.html

http://www.nwplants.com/business/catalog/ame_aln.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20043255

http://tcpermaculture.blogspot.com/2012/04/permaculture-plants-saskatoon.html

Picture Sources

  1. http://www.growingmagazine.com/fruits/new-juneberry-nursery/
  2. https://groundswatch.wordpress.com/2013/04/27/the-juneberry-tree-in-full-bloom-today/
  3. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Inflorescences_Raceme_Kwiatostan_Grono.svg
  4. https://persephoneskitchen.com/2011/06/13/old-fashioned-juneberry-muffins/
  5. http://tcpermaculture.blogspot.com/2012/04/permaculture-plants-saskatoon.html
  6. http://tcpermaculture.blogspot.com/2012/04/permaculture-plants-saskatoon.html

Plant Spotlight: Meet the Pawpaw! (Asimina triloba)

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

By 2016 POP Intern, Lucia Kearney.

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

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

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

The Sleepy Pawpaw
The Sleepy Pawpaw

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

A pawpaw flower
A pawpaw flower

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

Pawpaw fruit
Pawpaw fruit

Uses

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

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

Pawpaw pudding
Pawpaw pudding

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

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

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

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

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

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

Growing Pawpaws

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

Pawpaw seeds
Pawpaw seeds

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

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

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

Baby pawpaw saplings
Baby pawpaw saplings

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

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

Tortricid moth larva
Tortricid moth larva
Tortricid moth adult
Tortricid moth adult

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

Happy pawpawing!

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

Disclaimer

The Philadelphia Orchard Project stresses that you should not consume parts of any wild edible plants, herbs, weeds, trees,​ or bushes until you have verified with your health professional that they are safe for you. As with any new foods that you wish to try, it is best to introduce them slowly into your diet in small amounts.

The information presented on this website is for informational, reference, and educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as a substitute for diagnosis and treatment by a health care professional. Always consult a health care professional or medical doctor when suffering from any health ailment, disease, illness, or injury, or before attempting any traditional or folk remedies. Keep all plants away from children. As with any natural product, they can be toxic if misused.

To the best of our knowledge,​ the information contained herein is accurate and we have endeavored to provide sources for any borrowed​ material. Any testimonials on this web site are based on individual results and do not constitute a warranty of safety or guarantee that you will achieve the same results.

Neither the Philadelphia Orchard Project nor its employees, volunteers, or website contributors may be held liable or responsible for any allergy, illness,​ or injurious effect that any person or animal may suffer as a result of reliance on the information contained on this website nor as a result of the ingestion or use of any of the plants mentioned ​herein.

Sources

Trees for Gardens, Orchards and Permaculture by Martin Crawford

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pictures

Picture 1 – Philadelphia Orchard Project photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edible Perennial Propagation: Cuttings and Layering

Posted on Categories Blog, Home, Plants, PropagationTags , , , , , ,

By 2015-2016 POP Education and Outreach Intern, Alyssa Schimmel.

In this edition of our Edible Plant Propagation series, we’ll cover cuttings and layering as easy and inexpensive methods for generating new fruiting vines and berry bushes for your garden or orchard.

Black-Eyed Susan is an easy-to-propagate herbaceous perennial planted in many POP community orchards as an insectary plant.
Black-Eyed Susan is an easy-to-propagate herbaceous perennial planted in many POP community orchards as an insectary plant.

Cuttings and layering are two forms of asexual or vegetative propagation in which we use leaves, stems, or roots from a parent plant to regenerate genetically identical clones. One of the main advantages of this is that it allows us to regrow the strongest plants we may have started from seed and have grown out into full maturity with less time than it would take for us to wait for seedlings from the parent to mature with their varying characteristics.

Often, we’re choosing plants for the strength of certain desirable traits – like beautiful foliage, biggest or sweetest fruit, resistance to disease, early ripening, or attractive flowers. The Bartlett pear and McIntosh apple we’ve come to enjoy are examples of plants that continue to be asexually propagated through cutting and grafting since their selection in 1770 and 1811, respectively. Grafting is the method of joining plant parts so they will grow as one plant – often combining wood from a cultivar with the hardy rootstock of another, as is the practice with many apple, pear, cherry, peach, and plum varietals (and a subject for another post to come). Link here for our article on grafting fruit trees.  

While leaf and stem cuttings are frequently used to propagate herbaceous perennial herbs, flowers like pyrethrum and Black-Eyed Susan and some woody species that occupy space in the understory layer of many of POP’s orchards, root, hardwood, and softwood cuttings are the main methods we use to propagate fruiting species.

Plants from the Ribes genus are great candidates for cuttings and layering experimentation.
Gooseberry botanical drawing. Plants from the Ribes genus are great candidates for cuttings and layering experimentation.

Seasonally, now is the time to focus on root and hardwood cuttings as we ease from the winter cold into the first awakenings of spring. Later in the season as we approach mid-summer, we’ll focus more on softwood cutting where we’ll use the soft, succulent tips or stems of new growth to propagate plants like lavender, lemon balm, lemon verbena, oregano, rosemary, scented geranium, sages, thymes, certain ground covers and vines, as well as many shrubs and trees.

CUTTINGS

Root Cuttings

Root cutting provides a fast method for growing blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, elderberries, currants, and gooseberries. To do so, dig up the whole 2-3 year old plant during the dormant season when the roots have a large carbohydrate supply, or if you’re concerned with disturbing the plant too much, cut down close to the main stems of the plant with a sharp shovel and dig up a segment of the root mass.

If the plant has small roots, take 1-2 inch segments with a knife and pruning shears and lay cuttings horizontally below 1/2 inch of soil medium.

Black raspberry canes are very easy candidates for first-time cuttings.
Black raspberry canes are very easy candidates for first-time cuttings.

To begin with, you might start with a soilless mix that consists of one part coconut coir or peat moss blended with one part perlite, vermiculite or sterile builders sand.  This combination allows proper drainage and aeration for rapid root development. Combine ingredients with a small amount of water until evenly moist.  Add a small amount of organic starter fertilizer or seaweed extract to the mix. Replace with a richer potting mix once signs of growth are present.

Peat Moss is a major component of "soilless mixes" for rooting cuttings and air layering.
Peat Moss is a major component of “soilless mixes” for rooting cuttings and air layering.

If the plant has large roots, make a straight top cut, and then a slanted cut 2-6 inches below the first. Store for three weeks in moist sawdust, peat moss, or sand at 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Outside, insert the cuttings vertically 4 inches apart with its top level at the surface of the rooting medium in a well prepared bed. Sprouts should appear after a few weeks. Transplant to a permanent location after the sprouts have grown for a least a year in the bed.

Hardwood Cuttings

Hardwood cuttings are the choice method for propagating fruit trees such as figs, pomegranates, mulberries, quince, some varieties of plums, and for fruiting shrubs and vines like currants, gooseberries, grapes, and kiwi fruit. Because cuttings from dormant hardwood lack leaves, it isn’t necessary to provide a high humidity environment to stop the cuttings from drying out before they take root, as with other herbaceous perennials.

When the plant is dormant in the winter or early spring before the buds break, take 6-15 inch hardwood cuttings from the tips of branches with a pencil-width diameter. Cut off any unripened green growth at the tips as you’re wanting to select mature hardwood. It’s recommended to take cuttings from where the current season’s wood, one-year-old wood joins the second year growth at the base of this junction as it has the greatest potential for root development.  

At the tip, make a “sloping cut” (diagonal) away from the bud. At the base, make a horizontal cut and, using a knife, exposing some of the cambium – the light green layer you see under the bark when you scrape it away.

At this point, you can dust the exposed base with rooting hormone to increase chances of stimulating root growth, and tap the branch to remove any excess powder. Another method of supplying your cuttings with excess rooting hormone is to water with willow tea or stick willow cuttings in your potting mix to permeate the root zone. 

Inserting cuttings from the growing tips of any willow branches or watering with willow tea will supply the plants' natural infection-fighting chemicals and rooting hormones to your cuttings!
Inserting cuttings from the growing tips of any willow branches or watering with willow tea will supply the plants’ natural infection-fighting chemicals and rooting hormones to your cuttings!

Place cuttings in a container filled with propagating medium (as discussed above), placing as much of the hardwood branch below the surface of the soil – while exposing the top three buds to sit above the soil. Place in a greenhouse or cold frame to speed the process of root development. Cuttings will be ready to plant in the fall.  If you choose to plant the cuttings outdoors, mulch them in securely to keep them moist and allow the cuttings to stay in a well prepared bed for a full year – providing them with occasional treatments of liquid fertilizer or manure for several weeks – before transplanting them to their permanent location.

LAYERING

If you’ve been lucky enough to find a plant whose fruit, foliage, or flowers beckon you to beget another, you might choose layering as a method for propagating a new plant from your selected parent. Like cuttings, it’s a type of asexual or vegetative propagation, but where it differs is that you are encouraging development of new or “adventitious” roots on a stem while it is still attached to the parent plant instead of first being removed from it. Once the plant develops new roots, it can then be separated from the parent to grow independently. There are six types of layering: air, simple, tip, trench, serpentine, and mound, which can be read about here, with the most common methods being air-layering and simple, which we’ll explore here.

Air Layering

Developed by the Chinese centuries ago as a way of propagating difficult-to-root plants, air-layering became a method whereby a stem or branch was wounded, dusted with rooting hormone, and packed with sphagnum moss or a similar rooting medium until a new root system developed. Success with air-layering has been documented for many fruiting species including citrus, apples, pears, pecans, hardy kiwis, figs, cashews, and many others. Generally, it’s said that plants that can be propagated through stem cuttings will also most likely root through air-layering. One important thing to keep in mind is that success is largely determinant upon your ability to keep the rooting medium moist so the wounded or girdled section of branch that is to the develop roots does not dry out. Plastic wrap works well to keep the developing roots inside the moss bundle happy.

Fruit trees can be air-layered at any time during the year; but if you choose to start them in spring or summer when the tree is naturally experiencing its most vigorous growth, you could have a new tree ready to plant as early as fall.  

Air Layering Pictogram

To begin, select a pencil-sized shoot and and measure 12-15 inches from the branch tip. Remove the leaves and any twigs on the stem 3-4 inches above and below the layering point so the branch is completely clear of any foliage. Make parallel score cuts on the branch to create a 1-inch ring and remove the bark to expose the bright inner green of the cambium layer. Dust the exposed area with rooting hormone and wrap the exposed site on the branch with damp sphagnum peat moss that has been soaking in water for several hours. Using metal twist ties, secure plastic wrap around the moss bundle on either side like a tootsie roll on either side of the girdled branch.

In as little as a month for some plants, you’ll see roots forming inside the plastic pouch. When they’ve fully formed inside the pouch, remove the plastic keeping the moss surrounding the roots, and using sterilized pruning shears, cut just below the root ball. Your new tree is now ready to be transplanted into a container where it can continue to establish itself or be moved into its permanent location.

Simple Layering

Simple layering is just as easy and works best with shrubs that have flexible branches that can be bent to the ground to root at the site where they make contact. Examples of plants that can be propagated using this method include blueberries, currants, chokeberry, hazelnut, filbert, quince, gooseberry, and saltspray rose. As with any plant to propagate, select healthy plants, free of disease and insect infestation.

Choose a low growing branch about a pencil-width in diameter that has a leaf bunch at its tip. The tip of the branch should extend beyond the level of the soil as this section of the uppermost portion will be needed to photosynthesize energy for the new growth underground. Remove any leaves where the branch makes contact with the ground and wound its underside by using a sterilized knife to create small thin slits.

In layering, plant parts to be propagated/cloned are left attached to the mother plant to root.
In layering, plant parts to be propagated/cloned are left attached to the mother plant to root.

Dig a shallow trench where the branch meets the soil and dust the wounded, exposed branch with rooting hormone. Peat-moss mixed into the trench will help retain soil moisture.  Using a stake secure the wounded branch below grow, created a mound above ground. If you’d like, for extra security, you can place a large stone above the portion of the branch below ground. Stake the branch’s tip above ground with a small wood stake to ensure that it grows straight.

Keep the site well-watered. In the early fall, check for root growth; if properly developed, you’ll then be able to transplant the new plant to a well-prepared bed.

With these methods in hand, you’ll be propagating plants in no time!

References

http://www.pbcgov.com/newsroom/0212/02-08-12_air_layering.htm

http://www.ehow.com/how_5519391_air-layer-fruit-trees.html

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/start-young-blueberry-plants-layering-62349.html

http://deepgreenpermaculture.com/diy-instructions/propagating-hardwood-cuttings/

http://www.planetnatural.com/plant-propagation/

The Maryland Master Gardener Handbook

https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/plantsci/landscap/h1257.pdf

http://homeorchard.ucanr.edu/The_Big_Picture/Propagation/

http://www.geeksongardens.com/how_7525698_propagate-rudbeckia-cuttings.html

http://pss.uvm.edu/homefruit/hfgprop.htm

http://www.growables.org/information/HowToPropagateYourFavoritePlants.htm

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.

Fruit Tree Propagation: Grafting

Posted on Categories Blog, Home, Plants, PropagationTags , , , , , , , , ,

By Lucia Kearney, 2016 POP Orchard Intern

It might surprise you to learn that almost no fruit trees are grown from seed. There are several reasons for this, one of the primary being that most fruit tree seeds are unlikely to produce the same variety of fruit as the parent tree. This is especially true in the case of apples, whose seeds may not even produce edible fruit, and have maybe a one in a million chance of producing fruit similar to the parent tree. As a result, chances are that every apple that you have ever eaten has come from a grafted tree. All named varieties of tree fruit, like a ‘Seckel’ pear or ‘Goldrush’ apple, are propagated via grafting and are thus genetically identical to all other fruits of the same variety name.  Even trees that do grow fairly true from seed – such as peaches – are also usually grafted as this process is less-time consuming and easier to control than starting trees from seed.

So, what is grafting? As defined by Greg Rothman of Cummins Nursery, grafting is “a form of plant propagation in which scion and rootstock are surgically combined.”

Labeled scion wood waiting to be grafted at the POP Grafting Workshop.

The rootstock is exactly what it sounds like – the roots of the tree that you would like to grow. The rootstock determines the size of the tree, and can also be chosen for characteristics such as disease resistance and drought resistance. POP, for example, generally uses semi-dwarf rootstock, which makes for 12 to 15 foot tall trees.  The same ‘Goldrush’ apple scion would grow to 30′ grafted on standard root stock and 8′ on dwarf root stock.

Rather than being grown from seed, rootstock is clonally propagated. The desired variety is grown for about a year, then cut close to the base. The tree will send up a number of sprouts, and as they grow, their bottoms are covered with sawdust or sand to encourage root growth. The same can be done to the suckers sent up by more established trees. Once they have grown roots, the individual sprouts can be cut and used as rootstock.

Scion wood refers to the part of the graft that will produce fruit. Scions are usually first year wood with at least 2 or 3 buds cut from trees with the variety of fruit that you wish to grow. It’s best to cut scion wood while it is dormant in the wintertime, as well as to use rootstock that is dormant. This allows the tree more time to heal as it slowly wakes up.

One of the most common forms of grafting is called “bench grafting,” so called because you can do it indoors, sitting on a bench (if you’d like). Participants learned this technique from Greg Rothman at POP’s grafting workshop at Awbury Arboretum in March 2016.

TOOLS NEEDED for BENCH GRAFTING

  • Grafting knife (small straight blade beveled on one side); it is important to keep this very sharp so as to make clean cuts.
  • Grafting tape/bands for wrapping the rootstock/scion to keep the graft in place.
  • Hand pruners, to trim the end of the scion.
  • Wax/wound goo to seal the exposed parts of the scion.
  • Tree labels
  • First aid kit (because as Greg said during his presentation, if you do enough grafting, at some point you’re going to accidentally cut yourself.)

STEPS to BENCH GRAFTING

First, make sure that your rootstock and scion are about the same thickness at the point where you will be connecting them. The idea is to get as much as the cambium of the rootstock and scion to be in contact. The cambium is the green layer of cells between the bark and the wood. It is made of meristemic tissue; undifferentiated cells that can become wood or bark, and is thus where the graft will connect.

Tree Tissue Layers

There are two different ways of cutting and connecting the rootstock and scion. The first is called a ‘splice graft,’ and is simply a vertical cut, ideally made on a sharp angle so as to ensure maximum contact between scion and rootstock. To make a whip & tongue graft, start with a slice graft cut, and then make a second cut in the middle of the first cut on both scion and rootstock. This cut allows for more contact between scion and rootstock, and naturally compresses the two together.

Types of graft cut

Greg Rothman of Cummins Nursery, demonstrating proper cutting tecnhique.

Next, cut the scion back to two or three buds; this ensures that the tree will focus its energy on these points. After that, the graft needs to be tied in place. You can use a variety of materials for this – tape, rubber bands, etc. At the grafting workshop, we used a parafilm wax tape that stretches to apply increased pressure, holds in moisture, and eventually decomposes so it doesn’t need to be removed later. (Some other grafting rubbers and tapes need to be removed once the graft is healed so they won’t strangle the tree). The graft should take around 4-5 weeks to heal.

Wrapping the graft makes sure it stays in place and holds in moisture.

Next, the pruned edge of the scion wood needs to be sealed in order to prevent infection. You can buy tree wound sealant to do this or even use Elmer’s glue.  The preferred technique involves heating wax and then dipping the tip of the scionwood, making sure to completely coat the exposed edge. You can melt the wax in a double boiler or crock-pot.

Lastly, make sure to label your tree! It’s going to be some time before it produces mature fruit, so you’ll want to remember what fruit cultivar you’ve got on your hands.

Make sure to label your graft so you don’t mix up cultivars!

STORAGE & PLANTING OUT YOUR BENCH GRAFTS

We recommend that you pot up grafted trees immediately, and then keep them in a cool place (such as a garage) to give the tree time to slowly wake up. Make sure to keep the soil moist. Plant trees in the ground around tomato planting time, around May or June, and make sure they get about an inch of water per week during the first year. At around the same time, you can remove the wrap (if using non bio-degradable type) around the graft so as not to strangle the tree. Alternatively, transplant your successfully grafted tree to a larger container to grow out and plant in the fall or following spring.

OTHER TYPES OF GRAFTING

While bench grafting is the most common method for grafting fruit trees, there are some other ways to do so.

Chip budding – The rootstock is planted out, and then a single bud is cut out and replaced with a bud from the scion wood desired. It is then tied in place, and given time to heal.

Chip budding
Chip budding

Top Working – This method is used usually to change over the variety of a more established tree. Cut scions are inserted between the bark and the wood of the parent tree, and then wrapped in place. All exposed surfaces are then coated in wax. Using this method, several different varieties of tree can be grafted onto the same tree. Sam Van Aken, a professor at Syracuse University, has a single tree onto which he has grafted 40 different kinds of fruit!

Top working
Top working
40 fruit tree
An artistic rendering of the Tree of 40 Fruits, Sam Van Aken

Bridge Grafting – This is a method for rescuing damaged trees that are more than four years old. When a tree is girdled – meaning the bark has been removed – then the tree can no longer transport food produced via photosynthesis by the leaves to the roots, eventually killing the tree. Scion wood is cut and inserted into the healthy bark above and below the damaged part of the tree, thereby allowing the tree to once again transport food from the leaves down to the roots. If the tree is less than four years old, it is recommended to simply cut the tree below the wound, allowing it to regrow from that point.

Bridge grafting
Bridge grafting

Happy grafting everyone!

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.

Sources

http://www.redfernfarm.com/Practical%20Grafting.pdf

http://extension.psu.edu/plants/gardening/fact-sheets/home-orchard-production/growing-new-fruit-tree-plants-from-seed

http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/growing-fruit-trees-zmaz08jjzmcc.aspx

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grafting#Advantages

http://extension.psu.edu/publications/uj255

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/care-fruit-tree-grafts-after-grafting-55071.html

http://www.fruitwise.net/topgraft.html

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/tree-of-40-forty-fruit-sam-van-aken/

Edible Perennial Plant Propagation I: Stratification and Starting From Seed

Posted on Categories Blog, Home, Plants, PropagationTags , , , , , , , ,

By Bridget Downey, 2016 POP Intern, Rachel Baltuch, 2015 POP Intern, and Robyn Mello, POP Program Director

Hello, world!
Hello, world!

Each plant species has different conditions in which they sprout and thrive. POP focuses on perennial edibles and herbs–those which survive winters and continue producing for several years or decades. The most common perennial propagation methods are through cuttings, grafting, and division (forthcoming blog posts in this series), but the parent plants we take from all started from seed at some point. While there is a lot of information online about starting perennial flowers from seed, there isn’t a whole lot of focus on starting perennials for human consumption.

It’s important to know how to start plants from seed to increase genetic diversity and to grow strong plants adapted to specific environments. Knowledge of starting from seed can even contribute to increasing food access–because seeds from one plant are so abundant; very small for storing, saving, and sharing; and often much less expensive than seedlings or saplings to acquire. If you know how to grow, you’re one step closer to food independence, and, I assure you, you’ll start seeing seeds worth saving and experimenting with everywhere.

How do we ensure the health of each seed we start? Here we will look at how to start a variety of perennials–peaches/apricots, apples, persimmons, strawberries, blueberries, oregano, and lavender–from seed:

All of the plants listed above are perennial plants, which means they continue to grow year after year, reblooming each spring.  Most perennial seeds need to go through a period of cold stratification, mimicking what they would go through in the winter, after falling from parent plants, being buried in fall leaves and by animals, then enduring winter frost and freeze, all leading up to healthy germination in the springtime. Stratification, by definition, is the process of treating stored or collected seed prior to sowing to simulate natural winter conditions that a seed must endure before germination.  Without this cold and wet time seeds will not germinate at all and stay asleep within their shells.  There are six types of cold moist stratification to choose from: cold water soaking, refrigeration, fall planting, winter/solstice sowing, outdoor treatment, and snow planting.  You can learn more about these type of stratification at http://www.alchemy-works.com/fall_planting.html .

Refrigerator stratification
Refrigerator stratification

For now we will focus mainly on refrigerator stratification.  First you will need a medium for your seeds which could be: peat, sand, finished compost, or paper towels. I prefer to use organic materials like peat or compost and it is most important that you have a fine grained soil, so there are no big chunks disrupting the seeds. To prepare the soil, it will need to be moist but not soaked. Next, make sure your seeds are clean and mix the medium and the seeds together, the ratio of soil to seed can be about 3:1.  If you choose to use paper towels, give the seeds each a few inches all around.  To store your prepared mixes, place into an airtight vessel like a glass container or plastic freezer bag. This will go into the refrigerator or freezer.  Each plant does best at different temperatures and has a different germination time. We will review this with a few plants more thoroughly below.

Apricot kernel and hull
Apricot kernel and hull

Peach and apricot seeds tend to produce trees which are very similar to their parent tree and bear similar fruit. Although commercial orchards plant grafted peach and apricot trees, a seedling tree is a fine option for a yard or community garden orchard. When choosing your peach pits, pick fully ripe fruit that you enjoy from a local orchard (or POP community orchard) later in the peach season, as those will germinate better. Clean the pit with a brush in clear water and let it dry for a few days on your counter; it will now be easier to open the hard outer shell to find the seed inside of it. You can use a vise, a nut cracker, or as a last resort, a hammer. Please be careful not to let anyone eat this seed, as it contains a small amount of amygdalin which converts to toxic cyanide when consumed. The pit might also naturally crack open for you.

Keep your peach/apricot seeds in a closed container in your refrigerator for at least 8 weeks. About 4 months before the last frost date (mid-April in Philly), you will want to start the cold, moist stratification process. Soak the seeds overnight in room temperature water and then place them in a jar filled with slightly moist potting soil, which you will store in your refrigerator. The idea is to keep them cool and moist, but not moldy. You should start to see sprouting between one and three months, depending on the variety of peach. When you see these thick, white rootlets, they are ready to plant. However, the best time to plant is about a month before last frost. If sprouting occurs before this date, you may keep them in the refrigerator until the proper time.

Apple Seeds
Apple seeds

Apple seeds need to be kept between 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit for 70-80 days, and they do best between 40-41 degrees. They can be started like peaches and apricots above. Every apple started from seed will yield a completely different offspring than its parent plant, but starting apple seeds for rootstock to graft known varieties onto or growing out many apple saplings to find new cultivars are both very worthy causes. For a bit more on the subject of growing apples from seed, read up on Mark Shepard’s apple growing.

NOTE: All apples varieties are grafted, not grown from seed.  A seedling apple tree, even from the tastiest apple, will only rarely produce a tree with edible fruit.  Seedlings grown out and used as rootstock will lack any dwarfing quality and grow to 30 feet or more, an inconvenient size for harvesting and care for most growers, especially in urban environments.  

Persimmon seeds need to be kept between 35-40 degrees for 2-3 months. Check your seeds frequently to watch for mold or drying out.

NOTE: All persimmon varieties are grafted.  Seedling persimmons may or may not have edible quality fruit.  In the case of American persimmons, trees are male or female and both will need to be present for any fruit production.

Blueberry seeds do best between 60 and 70 degrees fahrenheit, don’t necessarily require any refrigeration, and do well started in the winter or spring indoors.  Plant the seeds about one inch deep in a shallow tray of finely ground sphagnum moss and spray with water to keep the soil moist. This process will take between 2-3 months for the blueberry seeds to germinate.  

NOTE: Blueberries are commonly propagated through cuttings and quality of named fruit varieties may be lost when propagated by seed.  

Strawberry seeds
Strawberry seeds

Strawberry seeds do best at below freezing temperatures (between 10-20 degrees F), so instead of refrigeration you can put your strawberry seeds in the freezer for 2 to 4 weeks and then let them thaw out at room temperature, before planting.

NOTE: Strawberries naturally self-propagate through runners and quality of named fruit varieties may be lost when propagated by seed.

Oregano seeds, similar to blueberries, like to grow in sphagnum moss.  Wet the moss completely, squeeze out the excess water, then mix in seeds. Keep seeds in the refrigerator between 35-45 degrees fahrenheit for one week.  

NOTE: Oregano is commonly propagated through stem cuttings. Growing from seed may result in different characteristics from the parent plant if not collected from controlled conditions.

Lavender seeds germinate best when kept in the refrigerator at 40 degrees for 4-5 weeks.  Then, leave them to thaw out at room temperature for a couple of days. When planted, they do best between 75 and 80 degrees during the day and about 55 degrees at night.  

NOTE: Lavender may also be propagated through cuttings, layering, or division.  Growing from seed may result in different characteristics from the parent plant if not collected from controlled conditions.

While your seeds go through the stratification process, be sure to check on them frequently to make sure they do not mold or dry out. If they seem dry, add a little water and mix well. Remember to be patient and gentle with your seeds. Perennial plants generally take a much longer time to sprout and break through the soil than annuals, especially compared to fast-germinating plants like arugula and brassicas. More on germination time, potting mixes, and seedling/sapling care in future posts! Happy planting!

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.

Resources/Sources

[All photos are labeled for noncommercial reuse.]