Mouthwatering Plums

Monday, March 14th, 2011 by Jenny Watts
    • Fragrant daphne is an early-blooming shrub that will delight you with its strongly scented blooms each spring. Plant it in well-drained soil.
    • Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce and other cool season crops should be planted this month for delicious spring harvests.
    • Mouth-watering strawberries should be planted now for delicious berries this summer. Plant them in a sunny, well-drained bed.
    • Plant sweet peas and larkspur for bouquets of delightful blooms.
    • Prune Hydrangeas now by removing old flower heads down to the first new leaves. Don’t prune stems which have no old flowers, and they will bloom first this summer.

The Diverse Family of Plums

Plums come to us from both Europe and Asia, bringing with them their characteristic traits and flavors.

Best known to us are the Japanese plums with their round, juicy fruits. Santa Rosa is the most popular plum in California with a purple skin and tangy, flavorful amber flesh. An interesting variation is Weeping Santa Rosa Plum which is a beautiful 8-10 ft. tree with long slender limbs that bow gracefully to the ground, covered with delicious fruit.

Laroda is a dark purple skinned plum with juicy, richly-flavored red and amber flesh. While Nubiana is a large, purplish-black plum with sweet flavor and very little tartness. Burbank is a well-known, red and yellow fruit that is sweet, juicy and uniquely flavored.

The European plums include the prunes. They are all very sweet and richly flavored. French Prune is California’s commercial prune, and Italian is larger and later ripening. They have purple-blue skin and amber flesh and can be eaten fresh or dried.

Green Gage Plum is a small to medium sized green plum with very sweet, richly-flavored flesh. It is a long-time favorite for dessert, cooking and canning. Emerald Beaut is a greenish-yellow plum that becomes exceptionally sweet as it ripens.

Plant breeder Luther Burbank was the first to cross plums and apricots, thought to be impossible at the time. His goal was to produce an apricot-like fruit which would bear consistently in our wet north coast climate where apricots fail to set fruit most years. Floyd Zaiger developed some new hybrids in the 1980s which he called Pluots and Apriums. Pluots, which are 75% plum parentage and 25% apricot, do well here while Apriums, which are 75% apricot and 25% plum are difficult to grow here. He went on to develop peach/plum hybrids and nectarine/plum hybrids.

Flavor King is a wonderful tasting pluot with a sweet, spicy flavor. It is very large and resembles a huge, heart-shaped Santa Rosa. One of the most highly flavored pluots ever developed, it is a reliable producer in this area. Flavor Queen is yellowish-green with a candy-sweet flavor. Flavor Supreme has a mottled skin with richly flavored, firm red flesh.

Spice Zee Nectaplum is a cross between a white-fleshed nectarine and a plum. The skin turns pale pink when ripe and it has outstanding nectarine/plum flavor. Tri-Lite Peach/Plum has a delicious flavor with both the sweet white peach flavor and a tangy plum aftertaste.

For a variety of delicious flavors, be sure you have a good selection of plums, prunes and pluots in your orchard. Fruit trees of all kinds are available to plant now, though the end of “bare- root season” will be here soon.

Home-grown Summer Fruits

Monday, July 26th, 2010 by Jenny Watts
    • Start seeds of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and other cool-season crops now. Transplant them to the garden next month and they will be producing for you this fall.
    • Penstemon are bushy, evergreen perennials that attract hummingbirds with their red, pink, lavender or purple trumpet-shaped flowers all summer and fall.
    • Roses need water and fertilizer to keep blooming well throughout the summer. Watch for pests and treat immediately to prevent infestations.
    • Fountains create the sound of moving water that is restful and cooling on the patio or in the garden.
    • Feed annual blooming plants and hanging baskets every two weeks for prolific bloom. Keep dead flowers pinched off.

The Fruits of Summer

Growing fruit in your own orchard is one of the delights of summer. Since you cannot buy fruit that is tree-ripened, the only way you can enjoy the full sweetness of summer fruits is by growing your own.

Strawberries begin the season, bearing fruits as early as May and producing their largest crops in June. Everbearers continue the harvest through the summer with sweet, tasty berries for fresh use or processing.

Raspberries produce bountiful crops in the home garden. June bearers produce a heavy crop of berries from June through early July. Everbearing raspberries produce two crops, one in June and another in the fall. Harvest daily or every other day for perfectly ripe fruit.

Cherries are the next to arrive in June. There are two types of cherries: sweet cherries and sour or pie cherries. Use them for baking, preserving or freezing when you can’t eat any more. They are both easy to can for winter use.

Plums begin fruiting in June and continue through September. You can choose black, red or golden yellow fruit with sweet or tart flavor. Prunes bear late in the summer with their sweet fruit that is so good for drying.

Peaches bear fruit in late July or August, depending on the variety, with some trees fruiting in September. As with plums, production will vary from year to year depending on the spring weather. But when a good crop comes in, it makes it all worthwhile.

Pluots are a relatively new fruit. They are a cross between plums and apricots with a firm texture and delicious flavor. Most varieties ripen in September. Some people are suspicious of pluots thinking that this strange fruit must be genetically engineered, but this is not the case. It is a hybrid that took several generations of cross breeding before the pluot we know today finally emerged. Enjoy their tasty flavor in fruit salads.

Blackberries ripen in August and provide a continuous harvest throughout the month. They are very easy to preserve by freezing.

Grapes ripen toward the end of August and on into September. There are dozens of varieties to tantalize your taste buds.

Apples and pears begin bearing fruit in August. Gravenstein is the first apple to fruit and Bartlett is the first of the pears. By carefully choosing varieties of apples and pears, you can have fresh fruit on through November.

These fruits are the most successful in the Willits area. Apricots are seldom successful and figs need a special hot spot to bear well. You can also try persimmons, which will be ready to harvest in November.

Don’t let your property be without some of these delicious home-grown fruits.

Plums in the Home Orchard

Saturday, September 26th, 2009 by Jenny Watts

There are two types of plums that are commonly grown and they have different origins. European Plums originally came from Central Asia, in the area around the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains. They were introduced into Europe during Roman times and, like most fruit trees, they were brought to America very early in our country’s development.

Japanese Plums probably originated in China and were introduced to Japan in the 16th century. It was one of the last fruit species to arrive in the United States, and was only introduced into California about 1870. Most of the Japanese plums currently grown in California are either the direct or indirect result of work done by Luther Burbank.

European plums can be used either fresh or as prunes. Prunes are simply plums that develop enough sugar to be dried to the pit without fermenting. They may either be dried (as is the bulk of the California prune crop) or sold fresh. Fresh market European plums cannot be dried and are eaten the same way as all Japanese plums.

Both European and Japanese plums can be grown here. Japanese plums generally bloom earlier than European plums, but both may need frost protection in the spring. Prunes require a long, warm summer to obtain the right level of sugars, so plant them in a warm, sunny location.

Of the prune-plums, French is most widely grown in California, and accounts for the dried fruit in the markets. Sugar and Italian prunes can be used either fresh or dried. Green Gage is a European plum which is a large green fruit that is eaten fresh.

Santa Rosa is the best known Japanese plum with its purple skin and amber flesh. Elephant Heart is very large with sweet, juicy red flesh. Emerald Beaut has a light green skin and yellowish flesh. It is very highly rated in taste tests.

Most plums need a pollenizer: a different plum tree to cross-pollinate. Santa Rosa is one of the few self-fruitful Japanese plums. Of the European plums, Green Gage, Italian and Sugar are self-fruitful. French is partially self-fruitful and will bear a larger crop with another plum nearby.

Plum trees will not crop every year in this area, but they are easy to grow and generally pest-free so they should be included in your home orchard to enjoy when the crop comes in.