Grower Profile: Home Orchardist Jeanne Calabrese of Chicago

Today we’re growing fruit trees in orchards, local parks, schoolyards and in our own backyards. This is one in a series of Grower Profiles on designed to educate and inspire! If you want to tell your story, send me an email at with your story and some fantastic pictures of your trees. If I publish your profile, I’ll send you a free copy of my award-winning fruit tree care book Growing Urban Orchards as a thank you. Enjoy!

Jeanne Calabrese inspects her Korean Giant Asian Pear tree.

Grower: Jeanne Calabrese, Home Orchardist
Location: Outside Chigaco
Grows: Apples, Asian pears, pawpaw, raspberries, black currants, honey berries, spicebush and elderberries.

My Story

My interest in fruit trees and fruiting shrubs began when I met Oriana Krusewski in 2009. Oriana is an orchardist growing Asian pears, pawpaws and unusual and rare fruits. We met at a MidFex meeting (Midwest backyard fruit growers) which i attended because I was curious about grafting.

It was an eye opening experience for me. I was introduced into a whole world of backyard fruit growing enthusiasts and learned I could graft my own trees, choose my own rootstock and had access to scion wood from hundreds of different fruit tree cultivars. I was amazed at what was possible and excited to dive in.

I purchased some pawpaw seedlings and scion wood and I was off. In 2010, I converted my back yard from grass to productive growing space. I currently grow serviceberries, apples, Asian pears, pawpaws, raspberries, black currants, honey berries, spicebush and elderberries. I’ve recently added dwarf sour cherries, an Italian plum and an American persimmon. We live in an urban area just outside of Chicago. It’s amazing what one can grow in a small space!

In 2010 Jeanne Calabrese converted her back yard from grass to productive growing space

My Biggest Fruit Tree Challenge

I choose plants that can be grown in zone 4b organically and that are not too fussy. But I’m thinking of removing my three espaliered apple trees because I am having a hard time controlling the insects. The insect pressure has increased over the years and now it’s affecting my Asian pears as well. This year I had coddling moth, stink bugs and apple curculio. It’s very frustrating! But i am committed to growing fruit and happy to share my environment with insects. We all have to live together. I just continue to create environment for beneficials to come and keep the peace.

Jeanne Calabrese’s espalier apple trees have suffered from insect pressure and she may remove them and replace them with another crop.

My Greatest Fruit Tree Success

i love to have people visit my yard and see first hand what is possible in a small space. this year i had way more pears than we could consume and i was able to sell about 60 pounds to the local food coop. I am a master food preserver and so I am able to process the fruit using several methods including canning, fermenting, and freezing and I love to dehydrate the Asian pears. It’s such a great snack and a wonderful way to eat them.

Jeanne Calabrese preserves the fruit she grows using several methods including canning, fermenting, and freezing.

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My Favourite Fruit Tree Secret of Success

Try growing pawpaws! With patience and a little knowledge our trees have flourished beautifully. Because this fruit is not commercially grown and the fruit is so unusual, tropical in nature it feels very exotic to grow and actually have success. even in Chicago winters!

Jeanne’s pawpaw trees have thrived despite Chicago’s freezing winters.

My Favourite Cultivar and Why

My favourite cultivar so far is Chernaya black currant. When a friend shared it with me I had no experience either eating or growing currants. This black currant is an acquired taste but I have come to love it and so look forward to its harvest each year. It’s easy to propagate and grow and is very hardy here in the Midwest. It makes a great jam and if I ever have a large enough harvest I plan to make some wine. Another colleague does make wine with the same cultivar and it’s incredibly delicious.

Growing fruit has become a passion for Jeanne Calabrese.

Susan Poizner

Susan Poizner

Director, Fruit Tree Care Education Online

Susan Poizner is the author of the award-winning fruit tree care book Growing Urban Orchards and the creator of the award-winning online fruit tree care training portal at She’s also the host of The Urban Forestry Radio Show and Podcast which covers fruit trees, food forests and arboriculture. Susan is an urban orchardist, journalist and film maker living in Toronto, Canada.