Foraging Wild Fruit: Beach Plum

Photo of Beach Plum fruit

Piping Plovers and Least Terns aren't the only beings who've been adversely affected by the "development" of Maine's coastline. For example, many of the habitats that once held Beach Plum (Prunus maritima) have been converted to lawns and human housing, and today Beach Plums are listed as endangered in Maine. Thus, I was surprised this year to be able to gather an abundance of these tasty little plums.

Photo of Beach Plum branch and buds

My plum adventures began when a friend invited me to pick some Black Cherries from an amazing tree in her yard. While I was picking, she asked if I liked Beach Plums. I, of course, said yes, and was escorted to a part of her yard where several Beach Plum shrubs, which she had planted* years ago, were heavy with juicy ripe fruit. I couldn't believe my eyes, and with her encouragement giddily gathered some of the fruit. The following day I shared some of what I gathered with friends, and pitted and dehydrated the remainder for later consumption.

Photo of Beach Plum bark

Another opportunity presented itself just a few days later, when a friend prompted me to contact the caretakers of a property with numerous planted Beach Plums. After obtaining permission, I visited the property to find a bountiful plum crop. I photographed, sampled, and gathered for an hour; later, I pitted and froze the majority of the fruit for future sauce making.

Photo of Beach Plum handful

In hand, a single Beach Plum (1/2 - 1" in diameter), with its heavy bloom and round shape, looks a lot like a Fox Grape. However, the flavor and hard pit is, as you'd expect, that of a plum. Leaves are toothed, hairy on the underside and alternately arranged along the stem.

Photo of Beach Plum leaf

If you're not sure where to find Beach Plums, try asking around. In some areas, wild populations abound.  Here in Maine, you might have more luck connecting with people who've planted Beach Plums on their property and have an excess of fruit to share.

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*You might consider planting some of your own.

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