This is one of those years when nature has looked with favor on the East End, providing us with a beach plum harvest for the ages. We’re not kidding; secret spots are not needed, there are that many to be had. A friend sent a message recently that she had picked five gallons in an easy afternoon. And, unlike some seasons, when the tangy purple fruit seems to ripen all at once, this is a rolling crop, many coming into their fullness while an equal or greater number wait another week or two. This year, we have no panic about gathering enough in time to make it worthwhile to haul the jelly-making equipment out.
Plenty of mysterious conditions must align for the bushes to produce this well. Sun, rain, and temperature all have their roles. But one that seems to us most important is a brief few days back in the spring, when the white flowers cover the dunes. It is then, in the delicate dance of pollination, that the magic must happen. A stormy week or two makes all the difference.
In July, we could see it coming. Small, hard green nubs hung everywhere from their tiny stems. August came, and as their color began to turn, a tropical storm came and went, its glancing touch too late and too dissipated to derail their slow walk to ripeness. And now, in late summer, they are finally ready, deep purple with a rich red flesh. The only question now is if there will be enough jelly jars, sugar, and time to can them all.