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Cornelius Grove tending his rare fruit gardenOn any given morning, you can find Cornelius Grove tending to his rare fruit garden. Like many seniors, gardening has become a great way for him to stay active during the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, he – along with nearly 800 of his fellow Stoneridge Creek neighbors – are enjoying the fruits of their labor, as they relish the delectable rare Russian pomegranates and grapes the garden produced.

Grove is a member of the California Rare Fruit Growers Association. Over the last five years, he’s been teaching residents at the community about how to grow and graft rare fruit trees. The garden became so popular that it was moved from his backyard to near the entryway of the community so the 80 residents involved in the garden committee could participate and help grow the fruit.

The rare fruit orchard includes more than 70 varieties on 37 different trees. Some of the rarest fruit in the orchard includes Buddhas hand citrus, Brazilian guava, lemon guava, pluerry (a cross of plum and cherry), and dragon fruit.

“We have some very interesting fruits,” Grove told a reporter with The Independent. “It’s a new orchard; the first trees were planted last year. This year, we have a fair crop of different fruits, but I think in the future, it will be a really delightful place with lots of different fruits, which will be of great interest to the residents living here.”

The orchard has become a social distance meeting place for residents to enjoy time with their neighbors while pruning and maintaining the garden. Research shows programs like gardening not only offer social benefits, but could help improve memory, hearing and overall well-being of seniors. Recently, some of the chefs at the community used fruit from the orchard in dishes prepared for the residents, making this a true farm-to-table experience.

“Twice we have been able to contribute a harvest of fruits to the chef,” said Stoneridge Creek Garden Committee co-chair Kevin Kelly. “Once, last year, we contributed some Russian pomegranates and the chef used those in a salad that was served at lunch. This year, Corrie, along with the executive chef, harvested some green table grapes, and she took them back and put them into that day’s salad.”

Read more about Cornelius Grove and the rare fruit garden in The Independent.