A recent NPR story tells of the amazing benefits of nuts. In the largest study of its kind conducted by Dr. Charles Fuchs, Director, of the Gastrointestinal Center, Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, researchers found that eating nuts correlated with lower incidence of disease and longer lifespans.
Eating something like 7 one-ounce servings of nuts a week, roughly one serving a day, was associated with a reduction in the risk of dying from cancer, heart disease, and other major chronic diseases.
While most people think that nuts are fattening, the study reported that the people who ate nuts regularly also largely avoided being overweight. Is this correlation more than causation? Uncertain as of yet and more studies will hopefully explain all this.
In the meanwhile, it is clear that nuts did not hurt those who regularly ate them!
The BOP encourages the planting of both fruit and nut trees. They not only provide accessible, affordable and healthy food, they help clean the air and the water, manage soil, provide shade and temperature control, bring beauty, nature and a sense of place to neighborhoods.
Nut trees, like pecans, walnut, hickory and others, can live for hundreds of years! Like fruit trees, nut trees are a gift one generation gives another, and another, and another.
The BOP will soon be putting out a call for your spring fruit and nut tree orders. Think about where - and with whom - you might create pocket orchards in your neighborhood. Call or text 443-562-8483 with questions or for more information.
We are looking forward to planting with you this spring!
In technical talk, the work that we do in planting fruit trees (and the extended version we call food forests) falls in the category of "agroforestry," that is, a combination of agriculture and forestry.
Agroforestry Farming management practices are characterized by the deliberate inclusion of woody perennials on farms, which usually leads to significant economic and/or ecological benefits between woody and non-woody system components. In most documented cases of successful agroforestry, tree-based systems are more productive, more sustainable and more attuned to people’s cultural or material needs than treeless alternatives. Agroforestry also provides significant mitigation benefits by sequestering carbon from the atmosphere in the tree biomass. (United Nations Environmental Program Emissions Gap Report 2013)
We are creating a new variety of agroforesty - urban orchards planted on open spaces, vacant lots and former lawns owned, operated and managed by schools, congregations, neighborhood associations and individuals like you and me. While taken one by one, these cannot be classified as "farms," all together they offer the promise of providing thousands of pounds of free or affordable, healthy, local fruit to neighbors throughout the urban environment.
And even more, we constantly hear what the UNEP report found, that people love fruit. It is often the gateway to healthy eating.
Though winter is coming, we are not slowing down. Now is when we pick up the pace to find more planting and harvest partners. For before you know it, spring planting will be upon us.
Think of us as you hunker down in the cold. The ground and the trees are resting, just waiting for us to come back in the spring and greet them.
If you find fruit trees over the winter, or possible planting partners for us, call or text our Harvest Hotline: 443-562-8483.
We would love to hear from you.
By Ben Howard
When volunteers of the BOP harvest fruit together, most of us experience a pleasant time with kind and interesting people. We gather around fruit trees, collect nature’s bounty and then load it in my hatchback till there isn’t a square inch not filled with fresh fruit. More and more, I have felt the need to share the story of what happens to that fruit after we harvest it.
Today, it was my honor to attend the Fighting Hunger in Maryland Conference. One moment in particular stood out to me. When talking about his experience being homeless in Baltimore City, a speaker from the Faces of Homelessness said that he was able to find at least a meal a day, but finding a nutritious meal was not something he could do. While homeless, he ate a diet comprised of processed sugars and starches and he suffered from diabetes. Since finding a home three years ago, he has recovered from diabetes, which he largely attributes to having a place to store fruits and veggies.
That is where we come in. While we have the long-term goal of empowering those suffering from hunger or malnutrition to live near and harvest their own fruits and nuts, what we do in the short term is invaluable. After our harvest yesterday, I drove around the city and gave hundreds of pounds of apples to locations that serve the homeless. Thus far this year we have harvested enough to provide over 6,000 servings of fruit to those who need it the most. So, to all of you who have helped this year, thank you. And, for anyone in Baltimore who lacks access to fresh fruit, know that this is only the beginning for us, and we plan to do so much more.
The harvest season isn't over yet! While the fruit season is flagging, the nut season is flourishing. My neighbor has a hickory tree which has produced a small bushel of nuts. They say that hickory trees produce in cycles of three: a mast year, a middling year and an off year. This year, I regret to say, is the first year I have paid attention. Still, in 15 minutes yesterday morning, I picked five pounds of nuts, from just under half the canopy of the tree. I imagine if I go back later this week, there may be another five pounds. Next year I hope to check it out again and will begin to learn the patterns of this tree. (Though I understand that if this hickory tree has fruit there has to be another hickory tree nearby!)
I am gathering up the courage of my otherwise cautious self to be adventurous enough to taste the nutmeat to see if it is edible (i.e. the sweet kind, meaning the tree is probably a red hickory) or not edible (i.e. the bitter kind, meaning it is probably a pignut hickory).
But the very abundance of even this likely-middling crop stands as witness to our capacity to grow healthy, wholesome food right in our own neighborhoods. Some people don't like fruit trees, worried as they are about the work and the mess and the need to clean up fallen fruit (though that fallen fruit makes wonderful compost - both for yourself and for your neighbors; and perhaps in the future, to sell). And some folks want big trees instead of the smaller, managed fruit trees saying that water and soil and air health are managed better and longer by big trees.
Nut trees speak to all these concerns. They are less work overall. They drop their fruit so no need to keep them small. Their nuts are easily swept up for harvesting or left right where they fall for squirrels (as opposed to other sorts of four-legged diners). They grow rather tall and they live a long time. Pecan (hickory is part of the pecan family), chestnuts, walnuts, almonds all grow well here in Baltimore.
As for us, there is great joy - and comfort - in an early morning foraging, crouching down beneath a nut tree, gathering food for family and friends amid the gentle cascade of nuts falling through the branches, beyond the leaves and onto the ground (or occasionally your head). It is a meditation of sorts, calling forth a mindfulness
Okay, so before I ended this blog I wanted to taste my hickory nuts. The first thing to report is, just like others say, it is a pain in the [..] to shell them. Which is why, no doubt, the Indians pounded them shell and all (after stripping off the outer husk) into a past. One site offers a secret to easily opening the nut (thanks to my friend Charlie Davis for this), but I don't know how the fellow held the nut in place to strike it just right.
Nonetheless, I did manage to open one nut with only 4 or 5 whacks of my hammer - and extracted a piece of the teeny nut from inside (unlike the walnut which is more nut than shell, this hickory is more shell than nut). Now, unless my taste buds have been blunted from all the cinnamon tea I drink, this nut actually tasted rather sweet.
I figure, then, that between now and Thanksgiving, I can shell a good enough amount to make stuffing and pie and sundry side dishes with this nature's bounty, courtesy of my neighbor.
Oh, I also saved some nuts and planted them around my yard. (I need to replace the 8 big trees BGE took down to secure our power supply. Not to worry. I planted them far enough away from the wires - which I hope will either be underground by the time they are full-grown; or perhaps gone in favor of an energy-absorbing roof, or paint, or driveway, or bicycle desk!)
I await the spring. Though how anything so small can break through that hefty shell is a mystery to me!
In an article entitled "The Great Grid" (published in Fritz Haeg's Edible Estates), Lesley Stern writes this wonderful line:
"A garden, any garden, is also a place where you can make another country; it is a place of irrationality, an imaginary place."
Gardens, especially orchard gardens, indeed can be places apart. They are both real and present, providing food, beauty and comfort. But they also exist in the realm of the imagination, carrying us beyond the here-and-now. To step into a garden is to be transported to a place of desire fulfilled. Work, hunger, pursuit of security all drive the being of the garden. But in its fullness - that is, in our imaginations at least - it offers us our very own spectacular Eden.
May all your gardens blossom; and may your eating be full.
By the way, now is the time to start planning and preparing for spring planting. Enjoy!
I am reading Darrin Nordahl's book, Public Produce, a compelling case for cities to allow urban gardening and "orcharding" [my word, not his] on public lands. While we all want broad open spaces in which to play, loll, and feel the reach of freedom and opportunity, we also all like to eat - often, well and cheaply. Often near where we play and loll! There is ample room in cities for both.
Today's local community gardens are the first step to such a goal. In World War II, millions of Victory Gardens were able to provide 40% of fresh vegetables to Americans. Imagine the capacity of cities and neighborhoods and lawns today to produce local, delicious small fruits and vegetables! Amazingly, there exists 40 million acres of grass in this country, making it the largest irrigated crop in America - never mind the tons of pesticide and fertilizers we use on them. Imagine if we turned even 10% of that to well-managed local gardens and orchards.
Commercial urban farms are coming next - often utilizing land abandoned by manufacturing and retail. Detroit is pioneering in this. Baltimore City is experimenting with it as well.
Public lands are next. Already cities such as LA, Seattle, Portland are creating public food forests. Other cities are using bits of open land here and there to grow more compact garden varieties.
The BOP is in on-going conversations with Baltimore City to see if we can find a place to pilot public orchards on public lands for public consumption managed by the public.
Bottom line: we need to garner all the resources we can to combat food insecurity. We live in a world with growing concern around climate change, energy sources and costs, urban growth and clean water access. Local orchards, and more expansively, food forests (aka forest gardens) can be a significant part of feeding people in the future, reducing the impact and incidence of poverty, creating new urban economic development, improving urban environmental health and a stronger America.
As Nordahl says: "Food security is economic security is national security." And food security eases the spirit and gives it room to soar. It is hard to build one's dreams when spending one's days scavenging for food.
This fall, the BOP expects to plant 75 fruit trees in Baltimore City. Please be in touch with us if you would like us to help you plant some near you this spring.
We are coming to the end of the 2013 harvest - but what a great late season it has been.
To date, this year we have harvested 2,649 lbs of fruit (yay! almost 1,000 pounds more than last year) and have given that fruit to a variety of partners including Our Daily Bread, My Sister's Place, GEDCO Cares, Manna House, the Franciscan Center, the Maryland Food Bank, Sarah's Hope at Hannah More, and the Baltimore Rescue Mission.
We still hope to eke out a few more harvests, and hope we can reach 3,000 pounds. (Sign up on our Meet Up page to get the latest harvest info. We will be at Jonah House this Monday September 16. Join us if you can.)
An action item for you. We rarely promote legislative advocacy issues here - but those that address essential issues of the well-being of the earth transcend politics and deserve, indeed demand, our attention. There is a bill in Congress that seeks to ban the main pesticides that are thought to contribute to Colony Collapse Disorder, the condition that is causing so many of our bees to die off. Yet without bees, our world's pollinators, the matchmakers between male and female in the plants that make plant-babies, ie, fruit!, much of our food system collapses too.
Without bees, most of us will be spending our time with little hairy paint brushes leaning over flowers moving sticky stuff from here to there and hoping we are getting it right.
Please consider saving the bees, and saving yourself!
The website to check this out is here.
A bountiful harvest on a beautiful summer eve!
On September 2nd, nine volunteers gathered 433lbs of apples at a country club in Baltimore. 216lbs were donated to The Franciscan Center and 198lbs were donated to Manna House. 19lbs of cooking apples went home with volunteers. Please join us at our next harvest - details on our Meet-up page!
Here is a wonderful introduction to "forest gardens" also called "food forests" and possibly "fruit parks" if on public land.
They are designed to be multi-cultural, in nature's terms: high trees, low trees, bushes, herbs, mushrooms. Seven layers at least, all thriving in wonderful symbiosis, helping each other as they celebrate being themselves.
The Baltimore Orchard is not just about orchards. It is about creating vibrant green spaces in urban settings, providing healthy local fruit to neighborhoods and deepening neighbors' and citizens' connection to each and the land, what is often called "a sense of place."
"We come from the earth, we return to the earth, and in between we garden."
The BOP is dedicated to working well our vast yet finite shared garden, the only one that nourishes us all.
May you celebrate well the 4th - and all that it stands for.