Wild Plums: A Minnesota Legacy
As the seasons shift once more, the warm days give way to cooler nights. The end of summer brings with it the sweet/tart flavor of the Minnesota wild plums.
The wild plum, a Midwest treasure, was around long before European settlement. As we approach the holiday season, the flavor of wild plum carries nostalgia to those who harvest and enjoy them from year to year. Wild plums are not only delicious eaten fresh, canned, made into jellies and jams, baked, or made into fruit leathers, and the plant is medicinally valuable.
“The various species of wild plum are astringent and sedative, and the bark is a tonic (Smythe 1901). The roots and bark contain a bitter substance as well as a substance called phloretin, which is an active agent against gram positive and negative bacteria (Lewis and Elvin-Lewis 1977).”
There are two kind of plums that grow wild in Minnesota. The American plum (Prunus Americana), and the Canadian or Red plum (Prunus nigra). The American plum was found across the southern and western half of Minnesota—our prairies and savannas- before European settlement. Now this beautiful plant grows along roadsides, rivers, in pastures, and along the edge of the woods across western and southern part of the state. The Red plum’s range includes the northern and eastern part of the state. It prefers some shade and can be found near ash, aspen, birch, elderberry, hawthorn, and sumac. Red plums and American plums both have a similar flavor.
As we journey into the crisp, cold evenings of fall and winter, enjoy the flavor of Native Harvest wild plums at your next holiday meal or give someone special The Taste of White Earth when purchasing a New Harvest Gift Box!
- Kaitlyn Grenier