The Tempe campus landscape is a diverse collection of plants from around the world that includes citrus, olive, pecan, sapote, apple, peach, quince, sweet bay and many other harvestable trees and shrubs.
There are two main harvests on campus, the sour oranges in January-March and the dates in September-November. These two crops help fund the Arboretum Volunteer program, plant signage, new garden construction and the purchase of tools, supplies, annual flowers, shrubs and trees for the Arboretum.
The Campus Harvest program also includes the Arboretum Herb Garden and the Arboretum Community Garden. Student gardening clubs help maintain the Herb Garden and put their knowledge of organic gardening to use. The Herb and Community Gardens are part of the Campus Harvest tour lead by Arboretum volunteers for local school groups and community organizations.
Harvesting the Landscape
Arizona State University's harvest tradition began in 1991 when all the stately date palms — including Medjool, Black Spinx and Amir Hajj — on campus were hand-pollinated in the spring, covered with protective bags in the summer and harvested in the fall by the Arboretum at ASU arborists. These delicious dates were a big hit with the faculty and staff and the program grew in popularity.
In order for everyone to have an opportunity to buy a box of the limited supply of campus dates, the ASU Foundation and the Campus Bookstore began a distribution program. It has grown from 650 lbs. in 1991 to a record harvest of 4,500 lbs. of dates in 2000. All campus dates are cleaned, sorted and packed entirely by Arboretum volunteers. Every November the Arboretum volunteers also pack and deliver a special order of holiday date gift boxes for the ASU President and Vice President to give as gifts to ASU benefactors.
The largest campus crop at the Arboretum at ASU is the Seville sour orange. There are 260 Seville sour orange trees on the Tempe campus that produced six to eight tons of fruit each year.
For many years, campus sour oranges were picked by a local citrus broker for shipment to the marmalade industry. When the American demand for sour oranges tapered off, the broker stopped picking our sour oranges.
Contrary to popular belief that they are only ornamental trees, sour oranges are a recipe fruit just like lemons. Juice them for marinades, vinaigrettes, fruity drinks and many other recipes! Sour orange juice can be substituted for lemon or lime in just about any recipe.
The Seville sour orange campus harvest earned the 2015 President’s Award for Sustainability, which recognizes outstanding university organizations that develop sustainable principles, services and programs to support ASU’s core missions.
In 2008, ASU Grounds Services Arboretum staff and volunteers picked over 8,000 pounds of sour oranges and delivered them to the Primate Foundation, Arcadia Citrus Program/Gila River Indian Community and ASU campus kitchens. The campus sour oranges were successfully kept from the landfill and put back on the table.
The Arboretum Herb Garden is located on the north side of the Student Service building, just east of the intersection of Gammage Parkway and Forest Avenue.
Over 7,000 K–12 students and VIPs visit the Herb Garden and have lunch there after participating in the Mars Education Program at the Moeur building. The Herb Garden is also a popular spot with ASU tour groups for lunch or to rest after a campus tour.
This is a demonstration garden, so the fresh, garden-grown herbs can be sampled by students and staff eat. These herbs perfume the air and make sitting outside at the circle of picnic tables a delight.
Depending on the season, there may be an abundance of spearmint, chocolate mint, pennyroyal, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, basil, garlic chives and stevia.