Unusual Fruits for Philly Orchards: The Benefits of Being Different

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016 intern Lucia Kearney harvests Nanking cherries at Awbury Arboretum.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UNCOMMON FRUITING SHRUBS (most recommended to least):

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

UNCOMMON FRUITING VINES (most recommended to least):

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

UNCOMMON FRUITING GROUNDCOVERS:

  1. Alpine Strawberry
  2. Prickly Pear

NUT-PRODUCING TREES AND SHRUBS:

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

ZONE 8 FRUITING PLANTS (require winter protection):

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

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

Unusual Fruits for Philly 

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

Support us! 

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

Black Rot of Apples and Other Pome Fruits

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

black rot

Black rot is a disease caused by the fungus, Botryosphaeria obtusa, which can attack the fruit, leaves, and bark of any tree in the pomaceous family (apples, pears, quinces, medlars, hawthorn). Pome fruits are fleshy fruits that do not have a central stone, but are cored with small seeds. Identifying black rot early is important in stopping the spread of the fungus, as it also can be parasitic to weak or dead wood in other plants in your garden. [Note: A different species of fungus which affects grapes during hot, humid weather is also known as black rot.]

About a week or two after petals from your apple blossoms fall, you should start checking your upper leaf surfaces for little purple spots, which is an early indicator of black rot. Eventually, the middle of these purple spots will turn yellow or brown in color, as well as dry out, while the margins of the spot will remain purple. The shape of the spot may become irregular and the middle of the spot also might form pycnidia, which are small, black pimple-like fruiting bodies of the fungus. A heavily affected leaf will usually drop off.

Tree branches or limbs might contain cankers, or sunken in areas of bark that are reddish brown in color. When sap continues to ooze from a pruning cut, one of the causes may be black rot gaining a foothold in the wood. These areas can expand each year and cause the affected limb to die. At any sign of rot or canker on the wood, a biological mudpack is a great way to combat organically, prior to the drastic measure of pruning a badly infected limb.


Black rot is found on your fruit in usually only one spot, which can differentiate black rot from bitter rot. The original spot on your fruit can be from any break of the skin of the fruit, including insect injuries. Starting as a brown spot, the rot will most likely grow and possibly turn black. You might also see more pycnidia on the fruit during this time. The fruit can form concentric rings around the spot and the fruit will begin to turn leathery. As the fruit decays, dries and shrivels up, it will eventually become completely mummified.

Treatment of black rot is a year round process, that begins with building healthy soil and good tree maintenance during the winter.Black rot can overwinter, which means that it will lay dormant in your tree, bark, limbs, cankers and mummified fruit and survive until the next fruiting season. You should always clear or prune dead or decaying wood, as well as fallen debris or dead fruit from around your tree.

The best way to rid your trees of black rot is to cut out the offending areas or cankers during the winter. Make sure to dispose of these properly, either by disposing in trash bags, burning, or burying them. It is also important to take away all mummified fruit, for the same reason of limiting the spread of fungal spores. Additionally, when your tree is fruiting, you should remove fruit that is damaged or invaded by insects, so that the fungus will not spread there. While you could try organically-approved fungicides, such as copper-based sprays or lime sulphur, these are still quite harsh and should be considered a last resort. The best method is to keep a sanitary tree environment all year round and consistently remove all sources of fungus spores.

References:

http://extension.psu.edu/plants/gardening/fphg/pome/diseases/black-rot

http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/fruits/apples/black-rot-on-apple-trees.htm

http://www.ehow.com/info_8202554_list-pome-fruits.html

The Holistic Orchard by Michael Phillips The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Pest and Disease Control: A Complete Guide to Maintaining a Healthy Garden and Yard the Earth-Friendly Way (Rodale Organic Gardening Books)

black rot (Botryosphaeria obtusa ) on apple (Malus domestica ) - 5368722

http://www.forestryimages.org/browse/detail.cfm?imgnum=5368722

Image result for black rot apple trees

http://www.fruit.cornell.edu/tfabp/gallery.htm

Severe black rot infection with dead bark on tree trunk.

http://www.caf.wvu.edu/kearneysville/disease_descriptions/omblackr.html

http://eap.mcgill.ca/CPAP_6.htm

This edition of POP Tips compiled by Education Intern, Rachel Baltuch.

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