Our backyard plum tree is blooming!
Of course, as usual, our honeybees are totally uninterested in the plum blossoms. I swear, I'm going to buy orchard mason bees next year. The honeybees are clearly more interested in food sources outside of our yard, and would rather not collect pollen from any plant that I'm taking care of. (I should also mention that I'm nursing a particularly miserable bee-sting. I guess there was a bee on the back of my shirt yesterday, and when I rested my forearm on my back, I crushed her, and got the full force of her venom. My normally Olive Oyl skinny arm is so swollen that it looks like it belongs to Popeye. It hurts like hell.)
A few of the grafts that I did a few weeks ago have "taken." They've survived my clumsy treatment, and have the beginnings of bright green buds. Squint hard, and you can see a yellowy-green tip to the buds on the teensy-weensy twig. This, to me, is thrilling. Since I wasn't anticipating any successes at all, I'm utterly delighted by this!
What follows is probably only interesting to myself, since it's a list of all the varieties of plums that I attempted to graft. Hey, I need to keep a record of this somewhere.
Bradley's King of the Damsons. A self-fertile blue English plum, originated by a Mr Bradley of Nottinghamshire, in the 1880's. Damson plums were once once known as Damusk plums, from the ancient word for Damascus, in Syria. Damson plums were brought to England by the Romans 2,000 years ago, who ate them and used them in making purple dye. Some feel that damson plums are too tart for eating fresh, and are best used in plum jam. This variety is reputed to be sweeter than most damson plums.
Catherine Burivell plum. I must have written this down incorrectly, because I canot find any plum with this name. I got it on the European plum table. (Burnell? Burwell? I can't figure this one out.)
Elephant Heart Plum. Included in Slow Food USA's Ark of Taste. These large round plums are rarely grown commercially, because they require hand-harvesting. Their flesh is blood red, and very juicy. Both skin and flesh are supposed to be strongly flavored, with a good sweet-tart balance. These are clingstone Asian plums.
French Prunes. These are delicious freestone plums, suitable for both out-of hand eating, and cooking. The lower moisture content makes them great for baking. And of course, these are the plums that dried prunes are made from. According to the website Practically Edible, these plums were brought to California in 1856, by Louis and Pierre Pellier, two French Brothers who ran a nursery in San Jose. The variety they introduced was the Agen, from France. Practically Edible goes on to say the following about French Prune cultivation in California:
Reputedly, in 1905 one plum farmer in the Santa Clara valley, a Martin B. Seely, was inspired by stories he had heard of monkeys harvesting coconuts. He imported 500 monkeys from Panama, and released them into his orchard in 10 groups of 50, each group having a human to manage it. Evidently, the monkeys harvested the fruit fine -- but ate the plums as fast as they picked them. While the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom (CFAITC) seems to think this story is true, other sources more cautiously rate this as an "unverifiable but charming local legend."Golden Nectar. A large oval plum, with yellow flesh and skin. This early-ripening Asian plum is said to need between 400 and 600 "chill hours."
Inca Plum. Yet another Ark of Taste plum! Introduced in 1919 by the crazed genius of horticulture, Luther Burbank. This plum is heart-shaped, with a yellow-and-magenta mottling. It is supposed to be exceptionally tasty.
Laroda Plum. Another plum included in Slow Food USA's Ark of Taste. Here's what they say about it:
In 1943 the Laroda plum was developed in Winters, California, by Claron O. Hesse at the California Agricultural Experiment Station; it was introduced to the market in 1954. The Laroda plum looks like a classic plum in color, shape, and texture but it has an extraordinary wine-like flavor. It is purple on the outside and amber streaked with red on the inside. It is very juicy with a slight sweetness complemented by a touch of acidity. It has long been considered one of the best-flavored Asian plums. The Laroda is generally used for making jams and jellies.Lizzy's Early and Tasty Plum. Grows on Myrobalan rootstock, was donated to the scion exchange by Keith Barton, and that's all I know about it.
Mariposa Plum. One more from the Ark of Taste, who describes it thusly:
The Mariposa plum originated in Pasadena, California, where it was a chance seedling that was selected by Jennie Benedict Thompson in 1923. The Mariposa plum is a large, round plum with a glossy maroon skin and dark red flesh. The plum is extremely juicy with an excellent, lingering flavor. It can be used fresh or cooked.Mirabelle de Nancy. This small yellow oval plum dates back to 1790. It is named for the French city of Nancy in the Alsace Lorraine region of Northeastern France. These plums are traditionally eaten fresh, or made into brandy.
Paul Smith's Favorite. An Asian plum, said to be freestone with red leaves.
Petaluma Plum. A mystery Asian plum.
Shiro Plum. An early yellow Asian plum. I may not have another variety that will pollinate this plum.
Standard Prunes (might be the same a French Prunes, might be Italian, who knows?) I love prune-style plums. These are smaller, more oval-shaped plums, that seem "old fashioned" (in a good way) to my mind. I seem to recall Robb telling a story about making himself sick as a child by eating an entire bag of prune plums on a drive home from the grocery store.