Mirabelles, Plums and Plumcots
In the past I have wondered if my soil, weather, and location suited the needs of Mirabelle trees (an early cropping French form of Plum). I had planted a number 4,7 and 9 years ago and I had only experienced small quantities of fruit to date, and some had never fruited. However, the trees seem to grow well once the biology adjusts in the ground from just suiting grass, to suiting trees and grass. When I say biology, I refer to the bacteria and Mycorrhizal Fungi ratio within the soil, as they are very different, in either just grassland or just woodland. Over time with a little external help (with the addition of some Mycorrhizal Fungi and some well-decomposed wood chip) the ratio will adjust to suit the tree as it establishes.
Although this year’s crop has been different, July 2021 has been an exceptional year so far for Mirabelles and Plumcots (a cross between a plum and an apricot) here at The Forest Garden Falmouth. The volume of fruit is far higher than I have ever experienced and the flavour, of those which have good flavour, and not all do, has been excellent.
The regular European plum trees like Opel are also looking heavily laden, although to be fair they generally have been quite reliable in recent years. These trees will start to ripen their fruit in mid to late August and I am salivating at the thought of that.
The two best performing trees so far this year for flavour have been Mirabelle Gypsy, producing a fruit with a deep red skin and yellow flesh, and Plumcot Flavour King, (which reflects its name within its performance) this has a similar colour skin but with deep, red flesh.
With the uncertainty of crop performance, you can appreciate the value of the forest garden model of crop diversity, as not all crops will do well every year. The reason for the performance increase may be the weather or it may be the addition of the new eco beehive that I am trialling for the first full season in the middle of the forest garden, it is here just to make sure my pollination performance rate is up and it certainly looks like it has had an effect this year. My existing standard hive is located on the west side of the site. Both are facing east. I am looking forward to seeing if this level of production can be matched next year.
You don’t often see European plums in a shop as they have little shelf life, it is usually the Japanese plums that the supermarkets have in their stores, however, to aid their self-life they are always picked far too early and their sugar levels have not risen, and they can be as hard as bullets, as my Gran, Ida, used to say. I will confess, it wasn’t until I had done some of my forest garden training that I tried a ripe European plum, and with that, I saw the true value of fresh, ripe, and tasty food, that could become available to me if I just grew trees like this! Although I don’t mind admitting the first five were great, but as the sixth one was slipping down I started to feel a little queasy :(, although I soon recovered, but lesson learnt :). I would now not consider my garden complete without them!
Simon Miles NCH RHS