Open Orchard School: Fruit Harvesting, Recipes and Preservation Techniques

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

12:00 p.m.1:00 p.m.

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What does an heirloom peach that hasn't been grown in the NYC region in over 300 years, taste like? When’s the best time to pick it? What are some recipes that celebrate it and how can it be preserved? Get answers to these and other questions at this virtual workshop with artist and orchardist Sam Van Aken, live-streamed from his “Tree of 40 Fruit” on the campus of Syracuse University.

For the past decade, Van Aken has been creating hybrid fruit trees with up to 40 different varieties of stone fruits on a single tree, and soon he’ll be planting an entire orchard of multi-grafted trees on Governors Island in a project called The Open Orchard. Join Van Aken for a tour of one of these special trees at the peak of the harvest season. See peaches, plums, nectarines, cherries, and apricots all growing on the same branches, and learn the best practices for picking, gleaning, fresh-eating, cooking and canning these varieties to maximize their incredible flavor.

The fruits contained on the Tree of 40 Fruit are all local to the greater NYC region, or were commonly grown here over the past 400 years, but have been mostly or completely wiped out by the rise of industrial-scale agriculture. Using the tree as a window into the past, Van Aken will share historical recipes and preservation techniques for a wide variety of fruits. Although dating back centuries, these techniques are still relevant for today’s generation of growers and home cooks, not to mention anyone interested in NYC agricultural history and the future of our food systems.

About the Workshop Series:

These workshops are part of The Open Orchard School, an ongoing series of educational programs co-presented by The Trust for Governors Island and NYC Parks GreenThumb. For more information about the workshop series, please visit:

The Open Orchard School is an extension of Sam Van Aken’s public art and environmental project on Governors Island, The Open Orchard, which will take the form of a public orchard of 50 fruit trees containing hundreds of rare and heirloom varieties. Once grown or commonly found in the NYC region over the past 400 years, these varieties have all but disappeared with changes in our climate and agricultural practices. The Open Orchard will reintroduce them to the public in the form of living trees, preserving this rich biodiversity for future generations. For more information on the project, please visit: 


Virtual/Online Workshop



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GreenThumb, The Trust for Governors Island,

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