Imagine being a student at New York City’s Queens College, and being able to pick a ripe, organic apple right off the tree on your way to your morning biology class. Nice, right? This past Arbor Day (in New York State, it’s the last Friday in April), a dozen student volunteers planted a whole orchard of 70 heirloom-variety apples on their own campus, with the help and guidance of Long Island City resident Erik Baard (who recently was awarded the Greenest NYer prize by the state’s I Love NY program) and his Newtown Pippin Restoration-Gotham Orchards program. Queens College senior Grace Magee had the idea and suggested it to the college’s administration only last month, and four days later, they had trees!
The Newtown Pippin is a variety of apple that was popular in colonial times, and originated in what is now Elmhurst, Queens, but at that time was the small town of Newton. Baard founded the orchard-planting program to revive some of the city’s historic botanical lushness and variety, and he and the program’s edible landscape designer Gil Lopez provide saplings and help volunteers place them in public spaces all around the city. The Queens College orchard has not only the crisp, tart Pippins, but a whopping selection of Burgundy, Chenango Strawberry, Florina Querina, Buckeye Gala, Honeycrisp, Hudson’s Golden Gem, King of Tomkins County, “Bonkers” (NY 35), Pomme Gris, Sansa, Spigold, and Dutch colonial Swaar apples, as well.
Queens College, which has another, smaller crabapple orchard that was there when the college was founded in 1937, was already on Princeton Review’s list of 322 Green Colleges, and has pledged to reduce it greenhouse gas emissions by 30% within the next 10 years. The new apple orchard is by far one of the city’s largest, and if all goes as planned, the campus will soon get even greener with the addition of the city’s largest citrus grove! Apparently, normal New York City soil can support not only oranges and lemons, but kuquats, yuzus and even some kinds of kiwis, according to Baard. Who knew?