I work with fruit trees in parks and public places and have made some subjective notes and impressions from this past year. The first of these concern the codling moth (CM).
Posts Tagged ‘pears’
[Even though this is no longer active, we posted the archive below because we think the information is useful.]
These two guys know a lot about fruit, fruit trees, pest prevention, etc, and they’ve graciously agreed to try to answer any questions you have.
Dear Don & John,
Not a fruit question, but what’s with the new name?
As you know, we’ve done a few Q&A pieces on this blog, answering people’s questions about their fruit trees, fruit shrubs, and, well, fruit. Well, turns out that there’s actually a company called The Fruit Guys and because of that, we’re changing the name to Fruit Q&A with Don & John. Same idea — you ask questions, we answer them — just a different name.
I do want to talk about The Fruit Guys, though. They were very nice in contacting us to let us know about their company and they care about the same stuff we do. From their site:
“The FruitGuys provides fresh seasonal fruit from local farms to thousands of American businesses, from small family-run businesses to major Fortune 500 corporations…We consider ourselves fortunate to work with customers who share our ideals about health, the environment, and our communities. The FruitGuys launched our Farm Steward Program in April 2008 to support sustainable small family farming. We donate 88,000 pounds of fresh fruit a year (more than 7,000 pounds a month) to non-profit groups and regional food pantries nationwide, such as Somethin’ Fresh. With your support, we sent over 7,000 pieces of fresh fruit to food-banks and programs for families in need over the winter holidays with our Donate-A-Crate Program.”
Seems like a great company and we’re happy to have made their acquaintance.
Learn more at fruitguys.com
- Don & John
Hi Don & John,
I garden at Greenwood P-Patch, where we have a row of blueberries along our garden’s western edge. Unfortunately, the planters did not gauge the light level correctly, and most of the trees have failed to thrive and set fruit.
We have about six bushes that look healthy. They plan to eventually move them into garden plots, where they will get more light and presumably do better. I have six gardeners who have pledged to put their mud boots on and move the bushes while they are dormant.
My question concerns the remaining bushes, which are in very poor condition–stunted with yellow leaves. I’ve pulled out several dead bushes while weeding. How can I tell if these bushes are likely to survive? Once the other bushes are moved, it may be possible to move the sick bushes to areas in the row with more light.
We have seen some blueberry plants set tasty fruit in the shade, but the fruit will be more abundant in the sun. Blueberries can do well in shade, but need water and a soil that is acidic — yellow leaves is usually an indication of too alkaline a soil. You also would need a primarily organic soil as you cannot compost, wood chip, sawdust, etc. too much with these plants.
Also be sure to keep the weeds away. Pull weeds, do not hoe or dig up the soil near the plants as they have a very shallow root system. You can also use a low nitrogen fertilizer early in season (Feb-May) and keep things damp. As I mentioned earlier compost heavily, or wood chips are welcomed. Water is the biggest restriction with these plants.
Here’s a great video we found that has a great overview of blueberry care: Blueberry Plant Care Video
With that work, hopefully the remaining blueberry bushes can make a come back. Hope that helps and good luck with the p-patch!
- Don & John
Dear Don & John,
My neighbor and myself grow both Red Currants and Gooseberries. This year we both have a bumper crop of fruit setting on our healthy, leafy bushes. We were very excited, until we noticed that something (an insect?!) has carefully laid eggs in every single berry. You can visually see the damage on the outside of the not-yet ripe fruit and inside there is a small, white grub growing.
What pest would do this to Ribes family fruit and what can we do to discourage this is future years?
Thanks for writing in. We don’t get many currant or gooseberry questions!
You’re instinct about the problem being an insect is probably correct. Currants and gooseberries are usually a pain to grow here because of the Currant Fruit Fly which actually is a small fly which hits the fruit, and the Currant Sawfly which is not a fly but a type of wasp whose larvae look like currant-leaf-colored caterpillars. There’s also a small chance it could be the Spotted Wing Drosophila (which they recently found in WA), but we suspect the larva is more likely the Currant Fruit Fly, pictured here.
The good news is that there is a non-chemical way to address this issue. You should immediately pick all fruit and remove it from the area – I wouldn’t recommend eating any of them, although if you only juice the fruit, you can still pick clean now and process.
The reason for removing them from the area is that the larvae drop to the ground and overwinter under the bushes, much as apple maggots burrow into ground under apple trees. Removing all the infected fruit may cut the life cycle enough such that you get a clean crop next year.
And while you can share this information with your neighbor, there’s no telling what the rest of your neighborhood might be doing and there may be infested currants in your area which are not managed and these can re-infest your fruit next year. One way to help against that is to net the shrubs with a fine mesh just after pollination but before fruit begins to form.
If you want to determine exactly which insect it is, save a handful of fruit, place in large Ziploc bag, store on kitchen counter, keep beady eye on it and see who emerges. If a small vinegar fly emerges in a couple weeks or so, you have the Spotted Wing Drosophilia. If no one emerges or rice-sized pupae are seen, you have the fruit worm which won’t emerge until next year.
Hope that helps and good luck with the berries!
- Don & John
Dear Don & John,
I actually have two questions built in to one request.
1. My inherited apple tree (variety yet unknown) has some kind of disease causing the leaves on many branches to curl and look nasty. How do I treat it without chemicals? Is it too late?
2. Do you know where the best place is to get a reasonably priced orchard ladder (tri-pod style)? Those things are crazy expensive.
Thanks for writing in. It looks like you get a 2-for-1 special today!
Your apple tree probably has apple scab, causing some leaf curl and color distortion and you can read all about how to manage scab organically on the Pests and Diseases page. We’ve got some suggested sprays and techniques listed there.
However, if your leaves are tightly curled upward that could be a sign of a new insect, the Apple Leaf Curl Midge, that’s been coming down from British Columbia, Canada. The damage is caused by the new larva feeding on the leaves – which can lead to distorted limb growth, premature leaf dropping, etc. Luckily there is no evidence of reduced quality of fruit.
For a mature tree, you should be safe to ignore it. For a 1 or 2 year old tree, remove affected leaves to try to save others from curl since it is thought to have 2 generations per year here. We would anticipate that parasitoids will slowly catch up with it and keep it in check.
With regards to the orchard ladders, yeah, they can definitely be pricey but worth it. You should probably be able to get by with a 6-8’ ladder unless your tree is really tall. We’ve found Tallman to be an excellent brand generally, which you can sometimes find used. For new, we purchased ladders for City Fruit at Horizon in Bellevue, WA, but Wilson Irrigation in Yakima is also a good bet.
Hope that helps and good luck with the apple tree!
- Don & John
Dear Don & John,
An apple tree on my block is 20-25 years old, pretty much neglected, but has a good crop of apples. I haven’t looked at it closely this spring until today, and was dismayed to see that the apples are all junk – see the photo.
What is the cause of this distortion? The leaves generally look OK, though there are a few curled and gray.
What can I do to help this tree?
The photo is great and always helps us provide a more accurate diagnosis. We think there are a couple things going on with your apples.
First, the spots on your apples are probably due to “scab” – a varying collection of fungus. The fact that the apple tree is older and has been neglected doesn’t help, but the wet weather probably had something to do with this as well, giving the fungus more time to establish itself on the fruit.
While problematic, there are organic solutions. The first step is to remove all old leaves from beneath the tree in the fall and put them in the yard waste container, or bury them. Prune out affected twigs, which bear small, blister-like pustules, and put them in the yard waste. Do both of these things in late winter or early spring, before growth begins in the tree.
There are also several organic spray options including sulfur, lime-sulfur, or Bordeaux mixture (copper sulfate plus lime) applied early in the growing season. These are readily available at most nurseries. Spray as soon as the buds show green. And since scab likes damp weather, spray every week until midsummer if the weather is dry. If the summer is wet, spray until 30 days before harvest.
The dimpling on the apples is more difficult to figure out, but it’s most likely a pollination problem – which is a more difficult problem to solve this season. It would be good if you get a lot of bees or other pollinators, as that would help ensure good pollination. Otherwise, next season when the flowers are blooming, take a small brush and a container, shaking some pollen free from the flower, and then using the brush to then apply it to other flowers.
Hope that helps and thanks for writing in!
- Don & John
Dear Don & John,
I was cleaning up the ground and fertilizing some of the fruit trees this weekend and I noticed something really odd. All of the plum trees are acting like it’s fall. Several species, all very mature and prolific full-sized trees, have started yellowing and dropping their leaves. 50-60% of the leaves seem to have turned yellow almost overnight. The leaves have brown spots and drop in droves at a simple shake of a branch. I looked for signs of mold or insect damage, but didn’t see anything obvious. They just act like it’s fall.
None of the other fruit trees (cherries, apples, pears, fig) have this issue, though all are suffering somewhat from the weird weather.
Does this have to do with the funky weather we’ve been having? Please help!
You did all the right things in checking what you did. Those are good steps.
And while plum trees in general aren’t producing as much as they did last year, we don’t think the weather is the culprit here, but rather some sort of fungal infection – but it’s difficult to tell without actually seeing the leaves ourselves.
Our best guess is that the fertilizer might be the trigger here. Fruit trees in the Pacific Northwest tend not to need too much fertilizer beyond specific nutrients. But too much nitrogen can spur excessive growth, leaving the tree susceptible to fungal infections.
So we suggest holding off on the fertilization for now and seeing what impact that has on the tree in a few weeks. With all fungal infections, it’s a good idea to pick up all the fallen leaves and put them in the yard waste bin – not your home compost or the disease can spread there.
While you might not get a good crop this year, you can most likely improve the quality of the tree health for next year. In the fall, the tree could benefit from a good pruning – targeting the parts of the tree that were infected this year. This should help the tree produce new growth in the spring.
Fungal infections also benefit from various sprays. Because we can’t identify which fungal infection your tree might have, we suggest bringing in a leaf sample to the Center for Urban Horticulture on any Monday from 4pm – 8pm. They have experts on hand who should be able to more accurately identify which fungus is affecting your tree and then recommend the appropriate organic spray – which would be applied next spring.
Hope this helps and thanks for writing in.
- Don & John
Don Ricks has been leading the charge on applying foot socks to apples & pears throughout the city. While Don shies away from the term “expert”, he’s very knowledgeable about fruit trees and pest prevention. He’s very involved with the Friends of Piper’s Orchard and sits on the City Fruit Advisory Committee.
John Reardon is a long-time member of the Seattle Tree Fruit Society and has spent many years helping educate and inform people on the proper methods for caring for fruit trees. He also sits on the City Fruit Advisory Committee.
The cool weather this June probably means you are still in time to do some protective work on your apples and Asian pears as there have been some delays on our bugs coming out.
European pears (like Bartletts) do not need protection at this point as the skins on the pears are still very hard.
And your plums also do not need protection at this point (for most people, anyway). Maybe later in the summer we can talk about the plums.
Also, please note: What everyone should know is that many of your gardening questions can be answered by Master Gardeners at locations near you. Visit the website for King County Master Gardeners or open this link please and note that there are various useful sites to click on, (such as the 2012 Plant Clinic Schedule:
If you’re like us, you’re getting excited for the upcoming fruit harvest. I can’t help but continually check out our fruit trees to watch the progress of our fuit — apples, pears, plums all getting bigger. And by now, your apples and pears should be the size of a quarter (or larger), and hard as it is to contemplate, it’s time to ruthlessly remove much of the fruit (called ‘thinning’).
This activity helps the fruit tree focus its energy to a fewer number of fruit, making those fruit that are left larger and tastier. Would you rather have a lot of small, bland fruit or slightly fewer fruit that are of good size and taste? It’s not just about this year though — leaving fruit on the branch means that you get smaller fruit this year and less fruit next year. So thin your fruit now for both short-term and long-term benefits.
In this short video, Tom Thornton of Cloud Mountain Farm, shows how and tells why to do this.
As the City Fruit pointed out on their Facebook page, now is a good time to rake up the leaves under the apple and pear trees. Do this if you had any evidence of apple or pear scab on your fruit. This scab is something that you would recognize if you saw it as it leaves blotches on the fruit. It may be said that this condition is unsightly but totally cosmetic only and not at all harmful to eat, nevertheless, if you wish to improve the appearance of your apples and pears, raking up the leaves now will reduce the chances of overwintering spores coming back to haunt you in the Spring. A suitable compost spread over the leaves in a suitable quantity is another alternative.
What I really want to talk about here is the weather, though. Ordinarily December is a good time in which one can prune your apple and pear trees, but the last couple years we have had a La Nina pattern with unusually cold and wet winters and that has made for a little caution.
The La Nina pattern is the single most dominant pattern affecting the Northwest weather. There are even some who believe the overall pattern has indeed been global warming the past few decades but that it is precisely the warmer temperatures East of the Cascades that is drawing air masses over the mountains in such a way as to produce cooler and wetter temperatures here West of the Cascades.
Whatever the reason for the abysmal weather patterns we have had the past couple years, let’s hope we have a more congenial winter this year. So far, during this Autumn of 2011, there have not been any unusual weather patterns of concern and so it certainly looks as if it okay to begin pruning the apple and pear trees without risking any minor damages to the tree whatsoever. The trees should be sufficiently “hardened off” now so that as they drop their leaves they have become ready to be pruned. Wait a month or two for the stone fruit trees, cherry and peach and plum, later until it is definitely clear that the harsh part of winter is over.
Gail Savina updated you earlier on this blog as to many wonderful activities happening this month. I am just going to give a little more “color” on three cider fests coming up…at Beacon Hill, in the Ravenna area and in Northeast Seattle. Consider going to the one nearest you, surprise them, and support them.
Oct. 16th 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. in Northeast Seattle http://sustainableneseattle.ning.com/events/barter-fair-and-cider-press
Bring your own washed apples/pears/grapes and let them get juiced up, if you want (no fruit from ground please)
Oct. 22nd – Beacon Hill Harvest Festival, 1 – 9 p.m., Garden House on Beacon Hill, 2336 15th Ave. S. in Seattle, http://www.rockitspace.org/harvest-fair.html
Oct. 29th — near Freeway, 6th Ave. NE and NE 63rd St. in Ravenna District, 2 to 5 p.m.
— bring your own apples if you want and have them juiced up and/or come for some free cider
— for more details and directions or map contact Ruth Collard at 206-527-4035 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
(Note: Blog on Nov. 1st will be on Fall Fertilizers. Blog on Nov. 15th will be on transplanting)
by Freya Manfred
On a hill overlooking the Rock River
my father’s pear tree shimmers,
in perfect peace,
covered with hundreds of ripe pears
with pert tops, plump bottoms,
and long curved leaves.
Until the green-haloed tree
rose up and sang hello,
I had forgotten…
He planted it twelve years ago,
when he was seventy-three,
so that in September
he could stroll down
with the sound of the crickets
rising and falling around him,
and stand, naked to the waist,
slightly bent, sucking juice
from a ripe pear.
A note on Pears: It is time to start thinking about your pear harvest, if you haven’t already. Each variety of pear requires a different kind of treatment. However, in general know this: Asian pears should be picked when they are ripe on the tree while European pears (like the Bartlett) are picked when still green and must ripen off the tree. Also, remember that every pear needs some chilling before it is allowed to ripen.
A note on the Spotted Wing Drosophilia (SWD): This was a light year for the drosophilia. We don’t know why but perhaps the intensely cold temperature we had just before Thanksgiving in 2010 reduced the population. We are seeing evidence of SWDs in raspberries and blackberries, some cherries, a few plums. So far, Washington grapes (as opposed to warmer clime California grapes) seem to be somewhat resistant to this pest.
There is no damage from SWDs to apples and pears with their harder skins.
Pears – The hard skin of most European pears has made them impervious to codling moth so far. However, as the summer progresses and the skin softens, it is time to think about putting a bag or footie (or spray) on the pears to protect them. You are probably not too late if you do this before August of this year.
Spotted Wing Drosophilia – This dangerously well adapted fruit fly has been causing organic growers to tear their hair out as it is hard to control with organic sprays. Nevertheless, the record cold and wet spring that we experienced seems to have reduced their numbers this year. It would be a good precaution to apply a preventative a week to two weeks before your berries, cherries or plums are ripe.
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug – So far Seattle hasn’t seen this bug in very big numbers but it is a growing problem back East and in Portland. We’ll post if we see a large influx.
We get asked a lot, “My neighbors have a beautiful fruit tree that they never harvest, what should I do?” Sometimes it’s more like, “I WOULD have great fruit if only my neighbors wouldn’t leave THEIRS to rot all over the ground!” or “They have this tree that hangs out over the sidewalk and and drops fruit everywhere so no one can get by and it gets all over your car and shoes and…”
Calm down people! Here’s what to do: First, take a deep breath. Remember this nugget of wisdom: People aren’t lazy, they’re exhausted. Your neighbors are probably too busy to even think about that fruit, or maybe they see it in passing and think I should do something about that… but they’re already off to whatever’s next. But that’s why City Fruit exists. We take all that fruit that people are too busy for, and give it to people who really need it, meanwhile, cleaning up your rotting fruit problem!
Now it’s time to talk to your neighbors, and it’s best to be prepared. Find out ahead of time who to contact, and write it down. I’ll make it easy for you:
- Phinney-Greenwood(N 50th St to N105th St, 8th Ave NW to Aurora): email@example.com
- South Seattle (South of I-90, between I-5 and the lake): firstname.lastname@example.org
- West Seattle (Community Harvest of West Seattle): email@example.com
- Throughout Seattle (They will send you to the right place): firstname.lastname@example.org
Think about what to say. We reccomend keeping it positive, leaving out your annoyance altogether, and focusing on helping people in need. Here’s a script:
“I noticed you have a fruit tree in your yard that isn’t fully harvested. I wanted to let you know about an organization called City Fruit that harvests neighborhood fruit trees and donates the produce to organizations in Seattle that help people in need. Would you be interested in that? I wrote down the email address here.”
This could go a couple of ways:
- “That’s great! We’ve been so busy lately.” Good job, you’ve rescued the fruit! Make some small talk. Maybe check in a week later, since they’re busy people and may have forgotten.
- “How does it work?” It’s OK if you don’t know the details. Here’s the basics: We scout the tree to see when it’s ripe, then organize a volunteer work party. The owner can decide to be there or not, and we schedule harvests daytime, evenings, and weekends. We can leave a small box of fruit at the owner’s request. For other questions, they can check out our website or just contact the harvest coordinator directly.
- “I’m the last person in the world without a computer” (I don’t mean that out of sarcasm, that’s just always what people say.) Offer to contact us for them. Write down their phone number, send it to us explaining the circumstances, and we’ll give them a call.
- “I can harvest it, I just can’t use it!” They can take donations to the food bank themselves. See our website for a list of donation sites. Also consider exchanging some fruit, or other goods, if you’d like a taste of some of that fruit! We’ve heard of neighbors setting up an exchange so that everyone gets one box of plums, one of apples, one of pears, etc. You could even hold a canning party to make some jams for everyone.
- “I can use it, I just can’t harvest it!” PNA members can check out an orchard ladder from the tool library. Or maybe you have one to share!
- “Bah! I can let ‘em rot if I want!” I do mean that out of sarcasm. People probably won’t say that, but it’s possible. If so, don’t push it. You can’t win ‘em all. If there’s really a mess on the sidewalk or street, you could offer to clean it up. You could report it to the city too, since residents have a responsibility to keep the sidewalk clear, but that might result in the loss of the tree, so consider carefully.
- If they’re not home, try again or leave a note, but be sure to sign it. If they realize it’s coming from a friendly neighbor, they’re much more likely to follow through.
Thanks for caring so much about harvesting fruit! We find that folks often just don’t know what to do with a fruit tree. Once they see it harvested, they start to see it as good food, which leads to taking caring of the tree and harvesting it. Good luck!
Finally a few sunny days ! !
I have already seen a few developing pears and a few sour cherries getting started. Since the sour cherry trees are self-pollinating, they at least could survive our incredibly cool wet “no fly zones” created for our bees this Spring.
This will undoubtedly be another bad year for some types of plums, but the apple trees that are out in bloom now should be fine in terms of being sufficiently pollinated.
Some people will have taken steps to protect against apple scab already, but this is the time of the year when it is time to now start paying attention to the bugs. The first bug to arrive on the scene for the apple is the codling moth….and if you live in South Seattle or by the Phinney area, there is a chance the codling moth will arrive about May 27th in very small numbers.
Talk to a local nursery about a spinosad product or neem oil or kaolin clay or some such for organic solutions.
Those applying foot sox to protect against the codling moth should probably think about putting the footies on the apples as soon as one can discern the apples this year. Here is a link that may help:
No other fruit crops need pest protection at this time, but summer approaches……stay tuned for the June report the first week of June.
If you are just itching to learn more about growing fruit, this is the event for you. Our friends at Seattle Tree Fruit Society will be holding a Spring Lecture Day in two weeks, on May 14 from 10am-3pm. Each lecture is about one hour long, and everything is free and open to the public. The event will be at Magnuson Park in building #406.
Seattle Tree Fruit Society (STFS) brings together fruit enthusiasts to learn and share experiences about growing fruit in the region. In addition to events like the lecture series, they hold fall and spring fruit shows where you can taste fruit varieties you’re thinking about growing, among other activities. You can also buy your “foot socks” from STFS, to protect your apples and pears from maggots.
Here’s the schedule of topics for Lecture Day, and you can also find more info on the STFS website.
10:00 – 11:00 ‘The Newest Buzz About Mason Bees’ (Missy Anderson)
10:00 – 11:10 ‘Producing Apples Organically’ (Harry Burton)
11:10 – 12:15 ‘Growing Kiwis in the Pacific Northwest’ (Hildegaard Hendrickson)
11:20 – 12:30 ‘Common Diseases and Insect Pests of Berries’ (Elizabeth Vogt, Phd.)
12:30 – 1:30 ‘Summer Pruning’ (Larry Davis)
12:40 – 1:45 ‘Red-Fleshed Apples’ (Harry Burton)
1:45 – 3:00 ‘Fruit Production in Limited Spaces’ (Ingela Wanerstrand)
1:55 – 3:00 ’30 Years of Applied Permaculture’ (Kristan Johnson)
Here’s a handful of other fruit-related events, coming up in May:
May 7 – 8: Edible Plant Sale, Seattle Tilth. 9am-3 pm, Meridian Park, Seattle.
May 14: Edible Plant Sale, Seattle Tilth. 9am-2 pm, Issaquah Farmer’s Market, Issaquah
May 14: Spring & Summer Vineyard Care, Snohomish WSU Extension. Gary Moulton, instructor. Call Karie 425-357-6039 or email@example.com.
May 21: Caring for Young Trees, City Fruit. 10am-noon, Jackson Pl Co-housing in south Seattle
May 21 Fruit Tree Espalier, 21 Acres. Ingela Wanerstrand, instructor. firstname.lastname@example.org or http://21acres.org/21-acres-fruit-tree-espalier-class
May 28: Organic Pest Management, City Fruit. 10am-noon, Bradner Gardens. Ingela Wanerstrand, instructor.
If April showers bring May flowers, then what do Mayflowers bring?
Nope. Not pilgrims. Guess again.
The answer this year is a very late pest program, with footies to be applied in late May (more details later).
Our April was phenomenally cold and wet, and in fact, the past 8 months have been unusually wet. As a result of these past wet months we had to so patiently endure, we will now see much more moss both on our trees and on our lawns. We will see more peach leaf curl on the peach trees, more anthracnose on our apple trees, and more pear and apple scab on our fruit.
Geesh ! To counter this onslaught of problems related to our rain, fruit enthusiasts are encouraged to talk to a local nursery about organic solutions, such as lime/sulfur for apple scab right now, and Spinosad products for pest control later this season.
What the organization “City Fruit” will be doing this year is to protect some of our fruit with a harmless barrier that doesn’t even require spraying. We use foot sox sold by the Seattle Tree Fruit society for apples and pears.
Read more about this http://www.seattletreefruitsociety.com/
In addition, I, Don Ricks, am personally offering to GIVE away these items to anyone who emails me and sends me a mailing address:
— 12 foot sox, and/or
— 12 paper sacks (with stencils where you can “name” your apple) and
— 6 Fuji bags (like used in Japan)
Jill’s last blog about “container” planting is right on the mark. I am convinced this is the future for Seattle gardeners….and I additionally am offering to give away insect netting to those people who have dwarfed cherry trees, peach trees, or blueberries where the net can cover the entire tree. (Apples and pears should be footied individually…..the nets are for smaller fruit trees and berries).
I will arrange to let you have the mosquito nets at one of our upcoming work parties to be announced later…but the foot sox I will offer to mail to you at no charge…….there is no catch other than this: I will email you in the Fall to ask about your results.
Again, there are no other conditions to receive these items to try them out. This is something I believe in and we can all learn at City Fruit by experimenting, growing, learning and working together to find solutions.
There is a well-used statement that goes like this: “be careful what you wish for…..you might get it.”
Six weeks ago I was hoping for moderately cool weather…..not freezing, definitely, just cool enough so as to delay blooming until we had an assurance of warmer, non-freezing Spring weather.
Well, that is kind of what happened…but not quite the way I wanted it. We have indeed had cool weather in the Seattle area for February and March. We still await a 60 degree day and it has been so rainy that month after month we exceed the average for precipitation.
Some of our apple trees won’t be blooming until May now. That is good, in a way, because it gives us more time to get ready for our pest protection programs.
However, some of our plum trees have already been blooming…..and, unfortunately, our bees and pollinating insects enjoy the unusually wet and cold Springs even less than we do….and have been less active accordingly.
My current expectation is for a poor crop set for Seattle area Asian plums, peaches and cherries that have been blooming already…..a good crop set for apples and pears that will be blooming….and a big question mark with the Italian prune plums at this point.
I was contemplating another heavy intellectual post this week, but after last week’s post, I thought I’d lighten it up.
Instead I’d like to address a trend that’s pretty much frivolous: small apples.
For many years, grocery-store apples have gotten bigger and bigger. The trend may have been propelled by the giant Washington-grown Honeycrisps, which amaze me every fall when I see them piled up in the grocery store. Maybe people like the idea of a bigger apple because they see it as a value: high edible-to-core ratio. Maybe they like splitting an apple with a significant other, or a child. Maybe it’s just the same psychology that produces 500-pound pumpkins, and the associated contests.
But I have to admit, despite my work for City Fruit, I’m the kind of person who gets tired halfway through an apple. Similar to “salad fatigue,” it can truly be taxing to eat all the way through an apple, especially a giant Honeycrisp.
This fall, I saw in my local QFC (in neon green puffy letters), “New Product! Small apples by the each!” It’s interesting to me that a grocery store can turn apples into a “New Product!” and I wonder whether this is a way to sell apples that would otherwise be too small, and actually sell them for more money.
But marketing aside, I like that small apples might be appealing to people. Last Sunday, at the Ballard Farmer’s market, one vendor was selling adorable little apples (per pound)—I bought four. I also bought three on-the-small side pears at a different vendor. I’ve enjoyed having a small-ish piece of fruit every day this week.
I hope that our urban fruit tree advocacy and the urban agriculture/good food movements in general will increase the diversity of fruits grown in the city. That way, we can have tiny apples, regular-sized ones, giant ones, sweet ones, tart, red, green, orange, crisp, baking apples, eating apples…
The middle of great pear season is upon us. There are so many varieties in the market right now. Pick your favourite firm variety and make this delicious cake.
Maple Pear Upside-Down Cake
Time: About 90 minutes
11 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 to 4 pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk.
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a small pan over medium heat; add maple syrup and brown sugar and cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and cook for another 2 minutes; remove from heat and set aside. When mixture has cooled a bit, pour it into a 9-inch baking pan and arrange pear slices in an overlapping circle on top.
2. With a handheld or standing mixer, beat remaining 8 tablespoons butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs, one egg at a time, continuing to mix until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.
3. Add flour mixture to butter mixture in three batches, alternating with milk; do not overmix. Carefully spread batter over pears, using a spatula to make sure it is evenly distributed. Bake until top of cake is golden brown and edges begin to pull away from sides of pan, about 45 to 50 minutes; a toothpick inserted into center should come out clean. Let cake cool for 5 minutes.
4. Run a knife around edge of pan; put a plate on top of cake and carefully flip it so plate is on bottom and pan is on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings.
I have been eying the beautiful pears in the markets for days now. And suddenly yesterday, there were the pomegranates! This recipe makes a delicious, healthy snack for after school or a simple, yet tasty appetizer.
Brie with Pear and Pomegranate Salsa Quesadilla
Pear and Pomegranate Salsa:
2 Bartlett pears, minced
¼ C minced onion
2 Tbsp minced yellow bell peppers
¼ C pomegranate seeds
3 Tbsp lemon juice
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp sugar
½ tsp dried sage
6 oz Brie cheese, thinly sliced
6 whole-wheat tortillas, about 9-inches in diameter
1. Combine all ingredients for salsa in a small bowl. Mix well
2. Place tortilla on a flat working surface and place 1 oz brie cheese on ½ of tortilla. Top with ¼ C salsa. Fold in half
3. Place briefly on a hot grill pan or under broiler to warm
4. Cut in half.
5. Repeat for all the tortillas
One of the main reasons we started City Fruit was to develop ways to become more financially sustainable, rather than depend on an ever-shrinking pool of grant money for funding
As part of that, we’re experimenting with selling a small portion of the fruit we harvest – with a goal of selling no more than 20% of the usable fruit we harvest. So far this year, we’ve harvested 5,775 lbs. of fruit and have sold 448 lbs., so about 8%.
We always talk to home owners before selling fruit from their trees, explaining that the sale of this fruit goes directly to funding the neighborhood fruit harvests next year. We aim to be as transparent as possible and so will again release an annual report early next year detailing how much we earned from fruit sales and how much it costs to organize our harvests.
We’re specifically targeting restaurants that have a reputation for caring about and seeing the value of using local foods as much as possible. A couple of the places we’ve been selling to are A Caprice Kitchen and Kathy Casey. A Caprice Kitchen is even Tweeting about how they’re using our fruit:
“Be sure not to miss asian pear caramel pancakes at brunch this weekend, made with ballard pears from @cityfruit !”
And Kathy Casey featured us in her late summer newsletter, writing:
“Right now it’s Jam Time! It’s that time of year again when summer fruits are in abundance (despite this crazy weather!). We’ve been hooking up with City Fruit, a cool non-profit organization that gathers excess fruits from neighborhood yards then delivers them to food banks and restaurants. We love supporting them and are donning our sexy hairnets to cook up lots of great tasty treasures, which we will feature at Kathy Casey Food Studios annual open house this December … yes, we are thinking ahead!”
A few other ways in which the restaurants we’re selling to are putting our local fruit to good use:
- Crab apple butter
- Apple pies
- Escarole with Asian pears
- Red plum tarts
So far it’s been very exciting to see how the restaurants are using the fruit. They seem to really like the quality and variety of our local fruit and the customers seem to enjoy the food as well.
In addition to helping fund our harvests, one of the goals of selling fruit was to serve people who are low-income but don’t go to food banks or soup kitchens. In many places throughout the city, this population doesn’t have access to low-cost, healthy, local fruit.
To help address this, a portion of our fruit is sold to the New Holly Farm Stand and to the Clean Green Market. We sell fruit to each at a much reduced price so that they can then offer this local fruit to their customers at an affordable price.
New Holly Farm Stand is part of the Seattle Market Gardens program and most of the farmers are immigrants from South East Asia and East Africa. It’s a relatively new farmers market and operates every Wednesday from 4-7 p.m. It’s at the corner of South Holly Park Drive and 40th Avenue South.
Clean Green Market was founded by Rev. Robert Jeffery (who along with City Fruit Executive Director, Gail Savina, was listed as one of Seattle Weekly’s Best of 2010), in an attempt to “supply fresh, wholesome produce to families in need in Seattle’s Central District.” The market is open from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Fridays & Saturdays at the corner of 21st and Fir Street.
We hope that these efforts to sell a small portion of fruit, as well as our membership program, classes, and donations, will help us reduce our dependence on grants and increase our financial independence.
We’ll keep you posted on how this experiment goes.
A few stories have caught my eye recently about farmers taking advantage of new legislation and government grants in order to reduce their carbon footprint by building up their renewable energy resources. Some legislators are even exploring ways to build renewable energy in to farm bills to provide a more holistic benefit to farmers.
Carlson Orchards – Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
I’m kind of a Scientific American junkie and so the first piece that caught my eye was in there. It’s about how one of the largest orchards in Massachusetts is benefiting from that state’s cap & trade auctions. Carlson Orchards is cutting their electricity bill by 80% with the help of grants from the state of Massachusetts that helped with the installation of 1,050 solar photovoltaic panels.
Massachusetts got the money from a 10-state cap & trade program called Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Through this, the states set a carbon emissions cap and then earn revenue when companies buy additional credits. So far the combined 10 states have earned over $400 million dollars ($106 for MA) that they then re-invest in renewable energy programs.
And Carlson Orchards is taking advantage of that. In addition to growing apples and making apple cider, that orchard is reducing its footprint and electricity bill.
Clark Family Orchards – Rural Energy for America Program
Similarly, in Colorado, a fifth-generation farmer is taking advantage of a program that was in the 2008 Farm Bill called the Rural Energy for America Program to cover about 25% of his costs to install solar panels that will offset about 55,000 kilowatt hours of electricity yearly.
A bit about the REAP program from their website:
“REAP offers grants and/or loan guarantees for the purchase and installation of renewable energy generating systems and for energy efficiency improvements. Assistance is limited to small businesses and farmers & ranchers. Projects must be located in a rural area. REAP grants and guarantees may be used individually or in combination. Together they may finance up to 75% of a project’s cost. Grants can finance up to 25% of project cost, not to exceed $500,000 for renewables, $250,000 for efficiency. There are also REAP grants to help pay for technical assistance on energy projects.”
With the energy costs continually going up, the solar panels going on the packing shed will save him about $4,500 a year.
Dennis Clark grows cherries, apples, peaches, pears, and plums on the orchard and now with the help of solar panels he’s also saving more than 116,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the earth’s atmosphere.
The Next Farm Bill
As more and more farmers take advantage of incentives and grants to create renewable energy, legislators are looking at how the existing programs are doing and thinking about how future farm bills might be written to increasingly encourage renewable energy use on farms and in rural communities. The next farm bill is still 3 years away, but that’s not stopping folks from thinking about it now.
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand recently visited several New York farms, to better understand their needs — including those around renewable energy. She’s on the agriculture committee and so has a vested interest in making sure the next farm bill works for New York farmers — and presumably farmers across the country.
Let’s hope more senators take the time to get out there, talk to farmers, and create the next bill that really helps farmers not only produce great fruits, vegetables, and livestock, but also empowers them to reduce their carbon footprint and leverage more renewable energy.
We try not to toot our own horn too much here on the blog, but I had to share that our fearless leader, Gail Savina, was identified as one of Seattle Weekly’s Best of Seattle 2010 — Best Fruit Savior. For all the work Gail’s done, including her work with City Fruit. From the article:
“After talking to Savina, your own view of Seattle may change. Adjust your gaze, even slightly, and you begin to see the “urban orchard” Savina describes, fruit trees rising from the landscape: plums, apples, pears, cherries, figs, quince. City Fruit’s work strengthens communities now, but in a town that was once home to many farms and orchards, it also paints a lovely, almost ghostly, portrait of Seattle’s past. ”
The Seattle Weekly had a special section of their Best of… series with a section they called The City of Angels — highlighting people and organizations that are giving back tot he city, trying to make it a better place. So we’re very honored to have Gail among that list.