This project aims to identify and develop superior cultivars of native beach plums (Prunus maritima).
Beach plums are native to the US northeast coast from Virginia to Maine. They are most widely known and consumed in New Jersey and Massachusetts, especially in Cape May and Cape Cod, where they are both harvested wild and cultivated on a small scale. The fruit of beach plums are small and round, varying in size from penny to quarter, and varying in color from yellow-orange to red to blue to purple. The flavor — sour with a touch of sweetness and sometimes slight bitterness — is usually quite nice out of hand, but is greatly improved by cooking or brewing. It makes an utterly delicious jam or jelly, a fine wine, and a lovely vinegar too. As a wild plant native to highly exposed dune environments, beach plums are very easy to grow and take to garden cultivation quite well. In fact, due to their wild nature, they thrive with near complete neglect. In our area, they produce delicious fruit with no spray, no fertilizer, and no watering. Being a dune plant, they root themselves very deeply.
A beach plum can grow into a tree up to 10 or 12 feet tall, but typically becomes a shrubby-looking bush. Wild beach plums are noted for having off-years when none of the beach plums in an area produce any fruit. Sometimes this is due to very late frosts, but sometimes the reason is unclear. This beach plum improvement breeding project seeks to develop cultivars with more regular bearing, larger fruit, and more productivity.
Volunteers interested in this project are asked to cover the costs of processing and shipping seeds (wild harvested from Cape May, NJ) by purchasing the seeds from our seed store website (www.EFNSeeds.com). They will become available in January 2019. Seeds benefit from 60-90 days of cold moist stratification (in a bag in the fridge with some peatmoss or potting soil should do the trick).
Are you seeking volunteer growers or other types of volunteers?
Yes, seeking volunteer growers
What will you ask volunteers to do?
Volunteers will be asked to grow beach plums from seed and look for any extraordinary individual plants. In future years, those with at least two plants of note may be asked to conduct controlled crosses between such individual plants. Once plants begin fruiting (within 3 or 4 years is not unusual for this species), volunteers will be asked to collect data on productivity, fruit size, and annual bearing.
Other requirements of volunteers?
All volunteers welcome, but particularly those in areas with weather similar enough to the US northeast and mid-Atlantic.
Can volunteers expect to be able to keep some germplasm (seeds, bulbs, cuttings, spores, etc) at the close of the project?
Yes, of course