Archive for the ‘Urban Agriculture’ Category


Grateful for a day of service and a ton of hard work!


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: what are you doing for others?”

It was one week ago today that we hosted a large event for Martin Luther King Jr Day. We are so excited to share the success of our MLK day of service–it was one of our most successful volunteer work parties yet! As our City Fruit team planned the special work project for MLK Day this year, we kept in mind our main goal of expanding the amount of work that we can do, caring for as many fruit trees as we can, and ultimately bringing the fruit back to our community during the harvest season.

We were buzzing with excitement at the opportunity to host two active community groups, the UW Husky Leadership Initiative and Projectline Inc. Each of these groups has created positive change within their organization and their enthusiasm was easy to recognize!

As volunteers came rolling into the orchard, we divided into groups, grabbed some tools, and conquered a couple of big projects. The Amy Yee Tennis Center Orchard has over 30 fruit trees with significant history to the South Seattle area. With over 75 volunteers with a combined 269 volunteer hours logged, our groups enthusiastically got to work clearing thorny blackberries, scotch broom, and other invasive weeds out from the base of the fruit trees. We were especially impressed with the efforts of our young stewards of the day who picked up fallen apples and planted young fruit trees in the newly cleared space!

The Amy Yee Tennis Center is now looking better than ever and we are excited for the prospects of this orchard for the 2015 harvest season. Thank you to everyone who came out and helped make this event a success for City Fruit. This was truly an inspiring group of volunteers and we are excited for the continued success of our future work parties!




Out in the Orchard: A Good Time to Plant a Tree

It’s November. You’ve harvested the fruit from your trees, BGT March 22 work party 2cleaned up fallen fruit, raked up diseased leaves, and spread mulch up to the dripline. What to do now? Plant a tree!

November is the best month to plant trees in our climate. Plant a tree in the spring, and unless you are really disciplined about watering, the dry summer months will stress your tree when it is trying to get established. Plant in November, and the rains take care of watering duties. Plus with our mild fall and winter, roots of the trees can even continue growing once they are planted, whenever the soil temperature is above 50 degrees.

A problem with this plan, though, is that most nurseries are not selling fruit trees in November.

City Fruit has a few fruit trees and edible perennials that are ready to plant now. Sign up using the online form. A small donation per plant is requested.

Some small local nurseries such asCal watering quince Burnt Ridge Nursery in Onalaska and Hartman’s Nursery in Puyallup may have fruit trees you can buy for planting now. Burnt Ridge sells trees at The Farmers Market of Olympia, open Saturday and Sunday from 10 to 3 through December. Contact small nurseries to confirm their fruit tree inventory before you take a road trip.

To get the most fruit production from your trees, buy two or more trees that can pollinize each other.

Location is crucial. The more sun the better – full sun is best. Leave enough room for the tree so it can grow to its ultimate mature size. You don’t want to be moving that tree again in a few years.

Once you are ready to get your trees in the ground, refer to City Fruit’s on-line resource document on How to Plant a Fruit Tree.

Good luck! Send us a photo of your new trees at [email protected]

Barb Burrill is City Fruit’s orchard steward coordinator. 


Giving Fruit to Youth in our Communities

High Point HEalthy Families Celebration

These past couple of weeks have been very exciting for me as I’ve been able to expose City Fruit to two neighborhood Back to School events and provide fruit to them as well! A large part of why I do the work I do is because I care deeply about culturally appropriate, healthy food access for all people regardless of where they live, what they do, or how much money they make. As a person who grew up in a working class family and who had to trek nearly thirty minutes to a single farmers market outside of my community, I’ve made it a part of my life’s goal to increase accessibility of affordable (or in City Fruit’s case, free!) fresh food.

The first event — High Point Healthy Families Celebration —  was held at Neighborhood House in West Seattle, one of the first neighborhoods in Seattle where City Fruit still harvests and donates fruit. The community event was hustling and bustling with other awesome organizations who have a presence in West Seattle. Besides for awesome City Fruit gear giveaways, we were able to donate many crates of Italian plums to complement their free dinner!

Van Asselt Elementary School was the next Back to School festival we were able to partner with this year. We’re lucky enough to work in the same neighborhood of the school (Beacon Hill), so providing fresh fruit for them just made sense! Over 400 people attended the event and they were able to enjoy some tasty varieties of pears and plums. They also got some sweet bookmarks to start their school year off right! Our harvest coordinator Luke dropped off the bounty and was swarmed by a group of third graders who asked asked him how much money all of the fruit cost to buy in which he was able to explain City Fruit’s model. His response was shocking to the kids: “It was free! Thanks to the goodwill and generosity of folks in our community, MANY more people can enjoy fresh fruit!”

Support City Fruit today by getting involved as a volunteer harvester to get more fruit to families in need. You can also join us by taking care of the fruit trees in one of the public parks we steward to ensure pest free apples, plums, and pears!

Melanie is the Community Outreach Coordinator for City Fruit.


Out in the Orchard: Falling Fruit

It’s my turn to blog a bit about my City Fruit world. I’m Barb Burrill, the orchard steward coordinator. I support the volunteers who take care of 11 orchards on public land in Seattle, and coordinate orchard care with Seattle Parks grounds staff.

I became involved with City Fruit as a volunteer orchard steward for the fruit trees along the Burke-Gilman Trail in Wallingford. That orchard started with six trees and now has 41. Learn more about the orchards that City Fruit volunteers manage at the orchard stewards web pages.

If you have a fruit tree or two in your yard, or your neighborsCodling moth damage on apple
do, you notice when fruit starts falling on the ground. Falling fruit can be a sign of fruit ripening on your tree, or, if it’s too early for your fruit to be ready, it’s probably evidence of insect damage.

For apples and pears, take a look at the fruit on the ground and see if it has the tell-tale exit holes of codling moth larvae (see photo at right.) The rust-colored material is what the codling moth larva leaves behind when it exits the apple: chewed material and excrement, called “frass.” Just makes you want to take a big bite out of that apple, doesn’t it?

You can still use fruit that has codling moth damage – just cut out what the worms have damaged. Codling moth larvae typically focus on the core of the apple, so most of the apple’s flesh is left intact.

Keeping a clean orchard floor is an easy way to reduce the local fruit-infesting insect population. Pick up any fallen fruit within a couple of days and dispose of it in your curbside compost bin – not your home compost pile – before the maggot can crawl out of the fruit and continue its life cycle.

Cleaning up fallen fruit will help reduce the overwintering population of insect pests and keep all nearby fruit trees healthier. Have a chat with your neighbors if your sidewalk is gooey with squashed fruit. Or put on your garden gloves and help pick it up.

Neighbors under 18 might enjoy making a game of throwing the fallen fruit into the compost bin. Thanks to our orchard steward volunteers from Lakeside School for showing us how that’s done.

Enjoy the rest of summer! And keep watering those fruit trees every week.

Barb Burrill is the orchard steward coordinator for City Fruit.

Ethan Russo Lecture: New Strategies to Tackle Urban Orchard Pests

Ethan Russo will present the results of his personal experience using an organic spray regimen to prevent apple maggot fly and codling moth on Saturday, March 16, from 10:00 to noon at Seattle University. Don Ricks will join Ethan to discuss his experience with pheremones, traps and GF120.  This event is presented by Seattle University Grounds Department in collaboration with City Fruit.  Ethan Russo, a Vashon Island fruit grower by hobby and pharmacological researcher by profession, had excellent results using an organic spray recommended by Michael Phillips, author of The Holistic Orchard. Don Ricks, a local fruit tree expert, is a lead steward at Piper’s Orchard.

The event is free, although a $10 donation is suggested.  Space is limited.  RSVP by contacting [email protected] and we will send you the room information.


Got spots?

Our pear tree with spots.

It’s time to check out your tree’s leaves and see if they’re good and healthy or if they’ve got little spots on them (like our poor pear tree). A few spots here and there aren’t too big of a concern if the overall tree is healthy — but watch it carefully. If it’s “Leaf Rust” and “Leaf Spot”, they are fungal diseases and can cause bright orange and black spots on the leaves. Once it starts moving, it will rip through the tree and soon all of your leaves will be covered in dark spots, wilting, and falling off the tree.

When our trees get it that bad, they never produce fruit and hardly grow. They’re not happy.

It’s not very easy to get rid of but a few things can help. We have a whole page on identifying and managing pests & diseases. But here are three quick tips:

1. Healthy soil. Start here. Make sure the soil is healthy for the tree. You can learn more about taking care of your fruit tree here.

2. Pick the leaves. Pick the leaves with the spots from the tree without touching too many other leaves. And pick them up off the ground. Don’t put them in your compost. Put them in your yard waste bin. Not ideal, but it’s the best option for the urban home owner. And wash your hands afterwards before touching any other trees or plants. You’ll probably need to do this several times.

3. Organic spray. Use a bordeaux mixture (copper sulfate plus lime). It will also takes care of those two issues. Follow the directions on the label of the spray bottle — different trees have different instructions.

Good luck and let us know how you get on or if you have other tips. Drop us an e-mail, send us a tweet, or post on our Facebook page.


Seattle Orchards: Burke-Gilman Trail

[This exerpt is from Seattle’s Orchards: A Historic Legacy Meets Modern Sustainability, by Audrey LIeberworth. It’s a thesis paper written for Scripps College that explores the historic and new orchards in Seattle.]

An old apple tree located along the Trail and under the Interstate 5 overpass; photographed by Audrey Lieberworth

There are a lot of fruit trees scattered along the Burke-Gilman Trail that winds its way through Seattle. The fruit trees that are of particular note are the six located right by Gas Works Park. Not much is known about when these fruit trees were planted, but Barb Burrill, one of the community members involved in taking care of these trees, states that there are numerous fruit trees on the streets and in the backyards of residents in Wallingford, the surrounding neighborhood, that were planted long before the current residents bought the property. As such, Burrill speculates that the history of these fruits trees is most likely connected to the development of the Burke-Gilman Trail and the surrounding neighborhood.

What is now known as the Burke-Gilman Trail was not initially created as a path for pedestrians and bicyclists. As related in the Burke-Gilman Trail History, in 1885, the early settlers Judge Thomas Burke, Daniel Gilman and ten other investors wanted to build a railroad that started in Seattle and connected to the Canadian Transcontinental line. They hoped that this railroad would help turn Seattle into an economic, trade and transportation center, and connect it to the broader network of trade. After the development of the railroad, it was used heavily to support logging between 1913-1963, but was finally abandoned in 1971 (“Burke-Gilman Trail History”). At this point, members of the community recognized the value of the path for recreational and non-motorized transportation. The City of Seattle, the University of Washington, and King County worked together in order to transform it into a recreational route, and it was dedicated on August 19th, 1978 (“Burke-Gilman Trail History”). The utilization of this path as a railroad track served as a catalyst for development of communities along the route and it is very likely that the communities that grew around this path planted the fruit trees.

Map of Burke-Gilman Trail near Gas Works (click for larger map)

The community members taking care of the fruit trees are not sure who owns which trees along the Burke-Gilman Trail because, as Burrill explains, the land along the path forms a patchwork of ownership between Seattle City Light, SPD and Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). However, with regards to the six apple trees in this specific section of the Trail, these different departments have granted permission to SPD and community members to take care of them. These apple trees have received a lot of pruning, predominantly at the oldest tree under Interstate 5. Community members have also been treating the apple trees for pest management because they have coddling moths and apple maggots. As a preventative measure, they have placed nylon socks over the individual pieces of fruit to protect them from exposure to more pests. Orchard stewards will likely begin taking care of more fruit trees along the Trail in the next year.



Seattle Orchards: Piper’s Orchard

[This exerpt is from Seattle’s Orchards: A Historic Legacy Meets Modern Sustainability, by Audrey LIeberworth. It’s a thesis paper written for Scripps College that explores the historic and new orchards in Seattle.]

The historic orchard at Piper’s Canyon, photographed by Audrey Lieberworth

Piper’s Orchard at Carkeek Park is one of the oldest orchards with an abundance of fruit trees in Seattle. As the “Piper Oral History Meeting” of February 20, 1984 recounts, the first owner of this land was the Piper family, which included Bavarian-born Andrew W. Piper, his wife Wilhelmina and their children. The family originally settled in what is present-day downtown Seattle, where Piper ran a konditorei, or a confectioner’s shop that sold baked goods and candy. However, his shop was burned down in Seattle’s Great Fire in 1889, and soon after, the family moved up north to an 80-acre plot of land by Piper’s Canyon, located in what is now Carkeek Park. The family planted an orchard on the land with many pioneer varieties, such as the German Bietigheimer, and a large vegetable garden. The “Piper Oral History Meeting” notes state that while Minna and her son Paul were the main caretakers of the garden, her husband often used the fruit harvested from the orchards to make pies. Minna and Paul took the fruits and vegetables from the orchard and their vegetable garden into town to sell. However, Piper died in 1904, and the City forced his family off the property a little while later to create Carkeek Park.

Carkeek Park was one of the first parks established in Seattle. Brandt Morgan, author of Enjoying Seattle Parks, a description and history of the parks that had been established by the time of publication in 1979, relates that Morgan J. Carkeek and his wife, Emily, settled in Seattle in 1875. Carkeek was a stonemason from England and one of Seattle’s best early artisan contractors. The park originally dedicated in Carkeek’s name was located on Pontiac Bay on Lake Washington 1918; however in 1926, the land was turned over to the federal government in order to operate a Naval Air Station. Consequently, Morgan states that Carkeek donated $25,000 in 1928 for a new park to be located at Piper’s Canyon and the City put up $100,000, to create the park. Carkeek Park opened for operation one year after this plan was finalized.

Since its creation, Carkeek Park has been utilized for a variety of different purposes. Some of the more notable uses were a sawmill company that was operated on the parkland in the 1920s, which usurped all of the timber in the original forested land, and the Whiz Company, whose fish traps were used to collect salmon until 1932. The park was then used to create work for those who were hard-hit by the Depression to make camp buildings and forest trails. Later, the park was used for a loop road, shelter, and picnic area in 1953, and a model airplane field in 1959. The park then slowly evolved into a place for community gathering, in part because of the discovery of the orchard after many decades of abandonment in the 1980s.

Map of Carkeek Park. Piper’s Orchard resides within the park.

In 1981, Daphne Lewis, a landscape architect, stumbled upon Piper’s Orchard, covered by layers of blackberry bushes. Lewis discovered the orchard in the process of surveying Carkeek Park in order to create a master plan for park restoration. Bob Baines, a SPD employee who was involved in the original restoration project, recalls that the restoration team consisted of volunteers, descendants of the Piper family and members of the newly formed Piper’s Orchard chapter of the Western Cascade Tree Fruit Association. The Piper’s Orchard chapter adopted and began to take care of the orchard. As part of this restoration effort, more pioneer varieties of apples were planted, which included Wagener, Red Astrachan, King, and Wolf River. The first wave of orchard restoration brought together the knowledge, expertise and resources of different members of the community.

Interest in taking care of this orchard has wavered over the years. However, a new era of the Piper’s Orchard restoration project began about five years ago, asserts Brian Gay, a naturalist for SPD at Carkeek Park. At this time, SPD and orchard volunteers put together a sustainability plan complete with recommendations for future care of the orchard. Afterwards, there was renewed interest in the educational opportunities that the orchard offered.

Today the orchard includes 82 fruit trees, 30 of which were originally planted by the Piper family. There is an abundance of apple, cherry, chestnut, filbert, pear, walnut and hawthorn trees all planted on the park hillside. Don Ricks, president of Friends of Piper’s Orchard, mentions that many of the fruit trees suffer from apple scab, a fungal disease, but they are putting up pheromone destructors and nylon socks in an attempt to counteract the incidence of pests.

While SPD owns the land, the non-profit organization Friends of Piper’s Orchard tends and maintains the orchard.


Seattle Orchards: Dr. Jose Rizal Park

[This exerpt is from Seattle’s Orchards: A Historic Legacy Meets Modern Sustainability, by Audrey LIeberworth. It’s a thesis paper written for Scripps College that explores the historic and new orchards in Seattle.]

Dr. Jose Rizal Park

One of three different plots of orchards at Dr. Jose Rizal Park, overlooking Interstate 5 and downtown Seattle -- photographed by Audrey Lieberworth

Dr. Jose Rizal Park, located on Beacon Hill, was created as a byproduct of the early settlers’ efforts to transform Seattle into a city. Settlers recognized the importance of the land just west of Beacon Hill as a shipping and industrial center because it was located right at the point where the mouth of the Duwamish River meets Elliot Bay. However, the transportation of people and goods inland and south was difficult because a glacier that passed through Seattle 15,000 years ago carved out a steep saddle between what is now First Hill and Beacon Hill. In the late 1890s and early 1900s, settlers began to level out the saddle, which made transportation far easier and also allowed a flourishing industrial center to appear west of Beacon Hill. In the 1960s, land was designated for a park meadow on the side of Beacon Hill as part of construction for the freeway that passes right through the area. In 1971, SPD acquired the meadow to create for a park.

In 1974, this park was dedicated to the memory of the Filipino patriot Dr. Jose Rizal. The park is located in an area that drew a significant Filipino immigrant population starting in 1900, after the Spanish-American War made the Philippines an American Protectorate. Dr. Jose Rizal was a Filipino patriot known for making “lasting contributions to medicine, psychology, literature, anthropology, art, drama, philosophy, botany, zoology, engineering, agriculture, and – above all – political and social reform”. This dedication reaffirmed the significance of the Filipino population in the Seattle community. Today, the park is still a popular gathering place for the Filipino community and they have also been a major source of support for the orchard rejuvenation project.

Dr. Jose Rizal Park

Click for larger map

It is unclear when this orchard was planted. However, Craig Thompson, a community member involved in the restoration of the orchard, believes that it dates back to the 1950s. Thompson states that there are three orchards at the park that are taken care of by community members and SPD. The largest, to the east, just downhill from the park’s scenic overlook, has twenty crab and true apple trees. One of the crab apples produces fruit, and orchard stewards and volunteers successfully grafted scions of the Victory variety of apple onto other crab stock. This orchard – the main orchard – is sided by a restored natural forest area to the south, a stand of Leyland cypresses to the west, and to the north a stand of European white birches. A second, smaller orchard is located further downhill and across a service road, and has five Winesaps, a fruiting crab apple, and another true apple variety. Further north, a third stand of three true apples sits inside the park, beside the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trail, a pedestrian and non-motorized transport path. Just south of the park are legacy nut and fruit trees planted by early Seattle settler, Katie Black. The nearby Katie Black Garden, which was laid out in 1914, commemorates her.


Rhubarb & Raspberry Crostata

I was just noticing that my rhubarb plants (I have 5) are starting to tell me that spring is here. And then I saw this recipe in the current issue of Bon Appetit. It is just delicious!

Recipe by Karen DeMasco, Locanda Verde, New York City

Photograph by Romulo Yanes
May 2011
Rhubarb and Raspberry Crostata
* 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
* 1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
* 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
* 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cubed
* 1 large egg
* 1 Tbsp. whole milk

* 1/4 cup cornstarch
* 4 cups 1/2″-thick slices rhubarb (about 1-1 1/4 lb.)
* 1 6-oz. container fresh raspberries
* 2/3 cup sugar
* 1 large egg, beaten
* Raw sugar
* Sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (for serving)


*Combine both flours, sugar, and salt in a processor; blend for 5 seconds. Add butter; pulse until butter is reduced to pea-size pieces. Whisk egg and milk in a small bowl to blend; add to processor and pulse until moist clumps form. Gather dough into a ball; flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap; chill at least 1 1/2hours. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.


*Dissolve cornstarch in 3 Tbsp. water in a small bowl; set aside. Combine rhubarb, raspberries, and sugar in a large heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until sugar dissolves and juices are released, about 4 minutes. Stir in cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil (rhubarb will not be tender and slices will still be intact). Transfer to a bowl. Chill until cool, about 30 minutes.

*Preheat oven to 400°. Roll out dough on floured parchment paper to 12″ round; brush with beaten egg. Mound filling in center of crust; gently spread out, leaving 1 1/2″ border. Gently fold edges of dough over filling, pleating as needed. Brush border with egg; sprinkle with raw sugar. Slide parchment with crostata onto a large rimmed baking sheet and bake until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly, about 45 minutes. Let crostata cool on baking sheet on a rack. Transfer crostata to a platter, cut into wedges, and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.


A Food Forest in Jefferson Park

What could be better than a forest full of food?  What if it was also a community garden in a city park?

At Jefferson Park in Beacon Hill, this idea is becoming a reality as community members plan a “food forest” to be designed, built, and maintained by community members.

A food forest is a permaculture land-management technique that’s designed to work like a forest ecosystem, but incorporates edible plants to be harvested.  Unlike annual vegetable gardens, a food forest is planted with mostly perennials or self-seeding annuals, so it produces a high yield for low effort after the first few years of establishment.  The plantings are designed to work together in a small ecosystem, with closed loops like leaf litter that becomes compost, or companion plants to ward off pests and attract pollinators.  Just like a natural forest, a food forest has groundcover (like strawberries or dewberry), an understory (like evergreen huckleberry or Egyptian walking onions), and a canopy (fruit and nut trees).  Can you see why we’re excited about this at City Fruit?

At Jefferson Park, community members plan to create a food forest in the sloping southwest corner of the park.  It would incorporate some p-patch beds and plenty of edible plantings in the forest.  Their next meeting is Thursday, November 18 at 6 pm in the Beacon Hill Library; they’d love input of all kinds, so even if you can’t be a dedicated volunteer, you can contribute your ideas and expertise.  Check out their website, where you can also contact the group.


Fruit Trees in Parks

I wrote about our Urban Orchard Stewardship program in partnership with the City of Seattle’s Office of Sustainability and Seattle Parks & Recreation. We’ve been working for the past few months and have selected the parks we’re piloting this year:

Volunteers from each part are beginning to meet with Seattle Parks gardeners to start to think about a plan for the park’s fruit trees. Using those plans, City Fruit will develop & supply training to provide the necessary skills and advice. These plans will start to come together around the end of October.

We’ll share more as we progress along.

If you want to learn more or help with any of these parks, please e-mail Gail at [email protected].


Get a Free Fruit Tree

I’ve seen a few different things going around the web recently about how you can get your hands on a free fruit tree so I thought I’d help share them here with some additional info about caring for trees. Keep in mind that there are strings attached to getting one of these free fruit trees — but in both cases below, it’s that the trees are used for the good of the community. Can hardly argue with that.

The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation

One of my favorite organizations out there is The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation. I’ve written about them previously but as a reminder they are, in their own words:

“… a nonprofit charity dedicated to planting edible, fruitful trees and plants to benefit the environment and all its inhabitants. Our primary mission is to plant and help others plant a collective total of 18 billion fruit trees across the world (approximately 3 for every person alive) and encourage their growth under organic standards.”

In order to help them achieve their 3 fruit trees per person, they’re giving away a ton of fruit trees. They have a couple different ways in which you can get them:

  • Fill out this application (Word Doc) for creating an orchard in your community.
  • Submit a project idea to their Communities Take Root contest(in partnership with Dreyer’s Fruit Bars). Then the community gets to vote on which projects receive free fruit trees.

Seattle Department of Neighborhoods

Sorry non-Seattle folks, this one is strictly for the Seattle residents — but it’s worth checking to see if your city offers a similar program.

The Tree Fund provides trees to neighborhoods to “enhance Seattle’s urban forest”. If you & your neighbors get together you can receive 10-40 trees for your community, as well as one fruit tree for yourself (one per household). Your project must be able to demonstrate the capacity to build a stronger, healthier community.

It’s a great way to get to know your neighbors better and improve your community at the same time. Plus think of all the great fruit you’ll get! Check out all the places that received free trees last year. Seattle is serious about improving our city’s urban tree canopy.

When, Where, and How to Plant?

Seattle’s Tree Fund doesn’t do the planting of trees until the fall, which is the perfect time to plant new trees — the temperature is cooler, they’ll get plenty of water. I’m not sure when you’d get the trees from the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, but I’d recommend waiting until the summer has passed.

It’s not always easy to know where a fruit tree will do well in a yard — that’s why we’ve put some very useful info up on our website. And don’t forget caring for the fruit tree. It’s not hard, but it does require some know-how and effort. But City Fruit is here to help.

And because I’m a visual learner, I really get the most out of watching someone do something rather than reading about it. For those of you like that out there, here’s a handy video on how to plant a fruit tree.

Now go get yourself & your community some fruit trees and start helping build your city’s urban orchard with a great local food source.


Rhubarb Patches in Full Swing!

I just can’t get enough of rhubarb….which is a good thing, as my rhubarb patch is in full production. My three plants each produce about 20 stalks at a time.

Here in an old and a new version of a favourite recipe from a recent New York Times.

1989: Rhubarb-Strawberry Mousse

1 1/4 pounds rhubarb, finely diced

1 cup sliced strawberries

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons kirsch

1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin

2 cups heavy cream.

1. Combine the rhubarb, strawberries and sugar in a heavy 2-quart saucepan and simmer for 20 minutes, until the rhubarb is soft.

2. Pour 2/3 of the mixture into a blender with the kirsch; purée and set aside.

3. Pour 4 tablespoons cold water into a small saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Allow to soften for 10 minutes. Heat gently until the gelatin has completely dissolved. Stir into the rhubarb purée.

4. Combine the purée with the remaining cooked rhubarb mixture.

5. Whip the heavy cream until stiff and fold into the rhubarb mixture. Chill for several hours. Serves 8 to 10.

2010: Honey-and-Ricotta Mousse With Strawberry-Rhubarb Broth

1 pound strawberries (small and sweet), washed, trimmed and sliced

6 ounces rhubarb, washed, trimmed and sliced

3 ounces lavender honey

½ tablespoon red-wine vinegar (can also substitute lemon juice).

1. Place all of the ingredients in a small stainless-steel bowl that will fit appropriately over a double boiler. Add enough cold water to just cover the fruit (approximately 1½ cups), then cover the bowl with two tight layers of plastic wrap. Place the bowl over the double boiler and cook over low heat for at least 1 hour, making sure that the plastic wrap does not break. If it does, remove and replace it. (Alternatively, steep the ingredients directly in a nonreactive pot, covered, over very low heat.)

2. Once the broth has a nice ruby color and the fruit has sufficiently infused the liquid, gently strain through a fine sieve. Discard the remaining fruit. Sweeten with additional honey if you wish. Chill.

For the honey-ricotta mousse:

8 ounces whole-milk ricotta

1½ ounces lavender honey (or any honey you like) Grated zest from ½ lemon

1½ teaspoons powdered gelatin

1 cup heavy cream.

1. Place the ricotta, honey and zest in a food processor and blend until creamy. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and chill.

2. Pour 2 tablespoons cold water into a small saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Allow to soften for 10 minutes. Add ¼ cup of the cream and warm over medium-low heat to dissolve. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, but do not chill.

3. Whip the remaining cream to soft peaks and fold it into the gelatin mixture. Fold the whipped-cream mixture into the ricotta mixture in thirds until fully incorporated. Chill for 2 to 3 hours.

For the garnish:

1½ cups thinly sliced rhubarb

½ cup sugar

1½ cups sliced strawberries

A few basil leaves

Shortbread cookies (like Walkers), crumbled.

1. Toss the sliced rhubarb with the sugar and allow to rest for 20 minutes. (If the sugar isn’t fully dissolved, stir and let sit another 10 minutes.) Add the strawberries and toss. Tear the basil leaves into small pieces and toss with the fruit.

2. To serve, you can use a bowl or a cup. Use a spoonful of the fruit mixture as the base and spoon or pipe the mousse on top. Add a few ounces of the strawberry-rhubarb broth and sprinkle a few pinches of crumbled cookies over the mousse.
Serves 6.


New Project: Seattle Fruit Tree Stewardship

A New Grant

City Fruit has just been awarded a grant from the Department of Natural Resources to develop a community stewardship program to care for fruit trees on community-owned properties, such as parks, community gardens, schools, and other community areas.

Fruit Trees on Public Land

There are a ton of fruit trees on public property – more than 30 Seattle parks have fruit trees. Parks like Carkeek, Othello, and Martha Washington have extensive orchards with some good specimens. And there are other parks that have planted several fruit trees (mini-orchards) as part of other edible landscaping projects – such as the Linden Orchard P-Patch and Bradner Gardens.

While these trees are of value to the community, their maintenance and care are often times more labor-intensive than non-edible trees. And typically the civic landscaping budgets cannot cover the costs of the pruning, managing pests, harvesting fruit, etc. So we’ve been talking with the Seattle Parks Department to figure out how to better care and nurture these trees, harvest and use the fruit, and not negatively impact the bottom line. This project is our attempt to create a model by which we can make that a reality.

About the Project

The project has three main objectives:

  • Create and pilot test a curriculum and training program on fruit tree care for lay gardeners
  • Develop a sustainable, volunteer-based model for the care of fruit trees on public properties
  • Recruit and train 12 – 15 volunteers interested in fruit tree management, using them to evaluate the training curriculum and the stewardship model

We’re really using Seattle’s successful Forest Steward program (a project of the Green Seattle Partnership) as a blueprint – that project builds on volunteers’ desires to work with others to improve the urban landscape. Fruit tree stewards will be responsible for winter and summer pruning, thinning of fruit, recruiting community volunteers to harvest fruit, picking up dropped fruit, summer watering, and basic pest management. The goal is to place at least two stewards per park, with each making a two-year commitment to their orchard. (In the future, stewards can be rotated so that experienced orchard stewards are paired with new ones.)

By the end of this project, volunteers will ‘adopt’ the fruit trees in 4 – 5 public parks. Through collaboration between public agencies, private nonprofit organizations, and the volunteers themselves, the project will create a mechanism through which a fruit tree stewardship program can be sustained over the long-term. Such a model could easily be adapted by other communities interested in preserving this resource but lacking public monies to do so.

To Participate & More Info

If you’re interested in becoming one of the fruit tree stweards or have questions about our new project, e-mail [email protected].



Grow Your Own Lunch

Interesting interview on American Public Media‘s Marketplace show with Adam Nicholson on restoring the family farm at England’s famous Sissinghurst Castle (home of Vita Sackville-West)


City food gardens also grow communitarians

Great story on KUOW on a set of neighbours who found friendship and community over tomatoes.


Status in the garden

In today’s Dining & Wine section of the New York Times are two great articles. One is about the number of corporations who are providing gardens to their employees to grow vegetables, either to donate to food banks, have for lunch/snacks at the office, or to take home. The second article is about the White House pastry chef whose mission is to reduce dessert portion size and to create desserts with as little white sugar as possible. Check out his recipes for granola bars and cheese cake…yum!


Books to make your garden grow…

The Seattle Times’ Pacific section this last Sunday had a good review of books to enhance your urban gardening and cooking experience. Of particular interest: “In “The Urban Pantry,” by gardener/writer Amy Pennington, co-founder of Urban Garden Share in Seattle and producer of KIRO Radio’s “In the Kitchen with Tom and Thierry” with chefs Tom Douglas and Thierry Rautureau, writes about everything from stocking the pantry to cooking with what you grow.”


Great News in the News!

Two radio shows caught my ears today and got the urbanist in me all excited! The first one describes taking urban agriculture and city orchards to a new level, there is a group in London that has created The Urban Wine Company. Just as City Fruit is creating an urban orchard, they are creating an urban vineyard. As cities like London are getting to be warmer and warmer, there are better chances of successfully growing decent for wine making. This March was the debut of Chateau Tooting! Here in Seattle, we have a lot of wonderful winemakers, but the majority of them get their grapes from Washington State’s fabulous grape growing regions.

The second story was on PRI’s The World and talked about Ottawa’s urban farmers..

Check out both these stories: they are energizing.