Beach Plums – The Durable and Delicious Species Plum
February 25, 2020
Growing Beach Plums in Michigan Without a Beach
by Ken Asmus
I read about this legendary fruit indigenous to the eastern seaboard that grew in pure sand from an old copy of Organic Gardening in a library and later in a newsletter from the North American Fruit Explorers. People on the east coast often collect it and use it to make jam. I love to make jam. It was a natural fit.
In the mid 80’s, I .purchased one hundred plants from a wholesale nursery called Hess in New Jersey. I was surprised at how quickly they fruited and the bountiful crops they produced. As time went on, people who knew of my interest sent me seeds of ‘Squabnockett’ a named variety and selected wild crops from islands and shores along the east coast. I used those seedlings to expand my beach plum plantings putting them in a variety of soils from loam to sand. They all thrived with no care. For a while I started grafting a large fruited and freestone type that I felt was one of my better selections. I called it ‘Grant’ named after the gentleman who gave me the seed. Grafting was easy to do, but the longevity of a grafted beach plum plant is short and really not a good idea for commerce. In some cases I have grown more than 10 generations of plants to find the best beach plums. The result: there are no bad beach plums!
I once had a 90 year old woman come up to me after one of my talks where I served beach plum jam. She was a close talker and said, “So you’re a man that likes to make jam.” She had a hard time imagining this possibility. “Yes mam I am that man” I reassured her. I soon discovered that the best jam comes from the greatest variety of plums and not just a single bush.
I like the beach plum. Its an example of strength in adversity in the fruit world. Not a lot of fruit crops are like that. My goal is to make this plant available everywhere even far away from the beach.