History Of Plum Trees And Their Hybrids

The documentation of ancient plums growing in antiquity is sparse. The best evidence of that oldest existence is best documented through America’s most famous pomologist, Luther Burbank, who reported in his twelve volume botanical literary classic, Small Fruits, Volume IV page 136, that the European plum, Prunus domestica, and its ancestor fruit originated in the Caucasus Mountains near the Caspian Sea. Burbank detailed evidence that the prune (dried plum) was a staple food of the Tartars, Mongols, Turks, and Huns “who maintained a crude horticulture from a very early period.” Several websites have put forth the absurd idea that, because the European plum, Prunus domestica, seeds were not found in the ruins of Pompeii after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, “whereas, most other old world fruits were,” that this plum could be concluded to be a recent hybrid of “spontaneous chromosome” doubling to produce a hexaploid offspring.

The earliest reference to plum history in the American colonies came from Prince Nursery of Flushing, New York, that was established in 1737 and reported in 1771 in an advertisement “33 kinds of plums” for sale. These plum trees were no doubt European plums, Prunus domestica.

After the year 1755, Henry Laurens, who was a guest and friend of Wililam Bartram, introduced olives, limes, ginger, everbearing strawberry, red raspberry, and blue grapes into the United States. From the south of France he introduced apples, pears, plums, and the white Chasselas grape which bore abundantly. Henry Laurens lived in Charleston, South Carolina and served as a President of the Continental Congress.

William Bartram described two species of American plums in his famous book, Travels, in his 1792 trip to Georgia, where he identified the Chicasaw plum, Prunus chicasaw, and in Alabama, he found a wild plum, Prunus indica.

Luther Burbank contributed more toward improving and hybridizing plum trees of different species than any other person in history. His work on the plum group of stone fruits stands apart from any other person for his unequaled contribution to improving various fruits that are grown and enjoyed today.

Burbank states that his importation of twelve plum seedlings in the year 1885 was the “most important importation of fruit bearers ever made at a single time into America.”

Burbank brought plums from all over the world and intercrossed them in a giant “melting pot” to produce the best characteristics and to reject the wrong ones. These genetic plum mixtures were recombined for many generations and resulted in plum hybrids today that are so different from the original species as to appear to be new species.

Burbank stated that he spent more time hybridizing plums than with any other plant breeding program, and he reported that he screened 7.5 million plum hybrid seedling crosses before releasing outstanding cultivars for sale. His famous line of plum trees that were popular in the late 1890’s are still admired and grown commercially for sale and in backyard gardens today, such as Burbank, Santa Rosa, Wickson, Golden, Satsuma, Shiro, and Ozark Premier. His first huge success was applauded by USDA Professor, H.E. Van Deman, who suggested that the pick-of-the-lot creation of Luther Burbank be named after its creator, thus, the “Burbank Plum.”

The most successful crosses between plums come from the Japanese plum, the most exotic, ‘Satsuma,’ the name suggested by Professor H.E. Van Deman of the USDA, who identified it as being imported from the Satsuma province in Japan. This unique plum grew a red skin with a pale-blue netting bloom overlay. The pulp was dark purplish-red, firm, tasty with an excellent quality to be preferred for home use.

Burbank’s experimental species were Japanese plums, Prunus triflora, that grew wild in Japan and were pickled by the natives. The Japanese plums grew in many colors in skin from white to purple, were large and rather tasteless, but the Japanese natives ate them while green and hard. The Japanese plum genes appear to dominate most hybrid plum offspring. Chinese plums, Prunus simonii, were aromatic, with rich colored skins, a small pit, but the skin cracks and the fruit tastes bitter.

European plums, Prunus domestica, are varied in sizes, largest to small, sweet or sour, complex genes, many colored skins, very widely adaptable, good for fresh eating, drying, or canning. The disadvantage: they are too juicy or watery. “Green Gage” is a well known standard European cultivar. Prunes are very high in sugar content.

Several species of America plums are very hardy and productive to the extent of covering the ground in spring with several layers of fruit. These plums can be tasty but have poor shipping quality. Burbank released an excellent hybrid strain of this cross called “Robinson plum.”

Several American native plum species have been used in hybridization experiments by Luther Burbank. American plums, Prunus Americana, wild goose plums, Prunus hortulans, the chicasaw plum, Prunus augustifolia, Western sand plum, Prunus besseyi, the beach plum, Prunus maritima, and the California wild plum, Prunus subcordata. These native plum trees are unusually cold hardy and frigid temperatures do no harm to them, even in the northernmost part of the central United States.

The “Myrobalan” plum originated as a French species, Prunus cerasifera is used extensively as a peach tree and plum tree rootstock that tends to be compatible with the resulting fruit tree union and appears to be highly resistant to nematodes and root diseases.

Burbank’s goal in hybridizing plums was to produce a tree that had “stability, novelty, variety, hardiness, beauty, shipping quality and adaptability.”

The plum leaves and twigs exhibit many subtle characteristics that can be experienced by the plant hybridizer to predict the future characteristics of fruit that will be grown from small seedling crosses. Most hybridizers known from experience a predictable outcome, even though these plant qualities are too intangible to explain to an audience, like changing facial expressions or minute variations of color changes. If the leaves of a plant are dark red, the fruit will be red. This same phenomenon is applicable to flowers such as the canna lily leaf color, and the red rhizome color; or in the crinum lily cultivars, a red bulb means a red flower; a light green bulb means a white flower.

Luther Burbank developed a seedless plum by hybridizing a French plum cultivar, “Sans noyaii.” These plums develop into various skin colors ranging from white to yellow, orange scarlet, crimson, violet, deep blue, almost black, striped, spotted, and mottled. These seedless plums were delicious and unique, but were never commercially successful with growers or with public demand.

Burbank crossed many plums that had a tendency to produce fruit with a high sugar content, like the sweetness of figs, pineapple and oranges. This high sugar content makes it possible for the plum (prune) to insure long term preservation, when it is dried. The prune contains a thick and tough skin of such texture that is required to not crack when the commercial drying process begins and proceeds to deliver a tasty, honey-sweet fruit that lasts well.

A prune will not dry properly into a marketable fruit, unless the plum contains a sugar concentration of at least 15%. Before drying, the prune is submerged briefly into an alkali solution that prevents future fermentation by preventing microbes from growing on the surface of the skin. For satisfactory prune production commercially, a prune tree must be a reliable grower with an annual substantial crop of fruit. The prune must ripen early, when the days are long and warm and must drop from the tree to avoid expensive picking costs at the proper ripening time. The prune fruit must cure and dry to a black color and grow a small pit. Most prune hybrids have been hybridized from the European plum, Prunus domestica.

There are also three ornamental varieties of flowering plum trees recommend for planting: Newport, Prunus cerasifera ‘Newport’, Purple Pony Prunus cerasifera ‘Purple Pony’, and Red Leaf Plum Prunus cerasifera ‘Thundercloud’, flowering plum trees.

Burbank developed purple leaved plum trees from a French plum ancestor with purple leaves, Prunus pissardi, that commercially are sold as ‘Thundercloud’ flowering plum, Vesuvius, and Othello. Some of these red leaf flowering plums developed by Burbank grew delicious red fruit in addition to the beautiful red ornamental leaves.

Plum fruit is rated high in antioxidant content that offers many health benefits like Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin C, Niacin, and the minerals; Calcium, Potassium, Phosphorus, and Iron.

Burbank sifted out the complexities of plum hybridization and even crossed the plum with the almond, Prunus dulcis, hoping to create a tasty almond kernel and a tasty pulp. He created many crosses with the Apricot, Prunus armeniaca L., and created plumcot trees, a 50/50 blend of plum trees and apricot trees; Pluot trees demonstrate a 75/25 blend of plum trees and apricot trees; and Aprium trees a 75/25 blend of apricot trees and plum trees.

Copyright (c) 2006 Patrick Malcolm

Working Holiday Visas For New Zealand – Seasonal Work And Travel Insurance

A working holiday visa to New Zealand allows you to work in a variety of jobs, with one of the main attractions for many young travellers being seasonal work such as fruit picking and vegetable harvesting. This type of work requires no previous experience, provides training on the job, and is available almost all year round. This article explains the working holiday visa, what seasonal work is available, where and when, and what working holiday travel insurance you will require for your trip.

Working Holiday Visa

With winter settling in over the southern hemisphere, now is the time to start planning your summer trip to New Zealand. If you are eligible, the New Zealand working holiday visa is a perfect opportunity for you to enter New Zealand (NZ) and work legally. NZ currently has agreements with 34 countries and the visa allows you to work here for 12 months, and up to 3 months for any one employer.

You can apply online for your visa on the Immigration NZ website. Here they provide a list of Countries that are part of the working holiday agreement, age and other criteria, and they outline they process you have to follow to successfully apply for your visa. Applying for your visa isn’t hard, and the application usually doesn’t take very long.

Seasonal Work

If you time it right, then you can arrive just in time for fruit picking season. During this season you can pick up work harvesting or packing fruit, vegetables and grapes, pruning trees, and help maintain crops.

The beginning of the season is usually about October, this is when strawberries come into season. The regions strawberries are grown include the Waikato, Hawke’s Bay and Horowhenua. You could stay picking strawberries right through to March, otherwise the summerfruit harvest starts in November in the Hawke’s Bay and December in Central Otago. Summerfruit includes cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines and plums. The season for summerfruit goes through to early March. In mid-February to mid-May you will get the apple harvest in regions mentioned above and in Nelson.

All growers will provide on the job training, so all they require is for you to be fit, and have good vision! Fruit harvesting is the perfect way to see the Country, and meet locals and other travellers while earning money.

Working Holiday Travel Insurance

Whenever you travel it is important to have appropriate travel insurance. If you are travelling to NZ on a work visa, then you are also required to have adequate medical insurance. There is a wide range of travel insurance policies available through a number of different insurers.

Working holiday travel insurance should protect you for a range of activities, including horticultural work, and cover areas such as medical expenses, repatriation, lost baggage, theft etc.

Although NZ is regarded as a safe country to travel there is still theft, especially in many tourist hot spots. Accidents can happen anywhere, and you have to pay for your medical care in NZ, that is why medical insurance is important. Lost baggage, missed flights, cancellations etc, are unforeseeable events that can happen when you travel. Having a suitable travel insurance policy will give you peace of mind when these things happen.

In conclusion, we encourage you to take advantage of the working holiday visa scheme that NZ offers. You should also investigate seasonal work as an option and the many informative websites about this type of work. But most importantly, make sure you take out appropriate working holiday travel insurance to both meet your visa requirements and to give you the peace of mind you need to travel abroad.

Wine Travel – Washington’s Eastern Region Shines

If you’re a wine travel lover, Washington is an especially rewarding destination. Practically everywhere you turn, there’s an interesting winery to discover, not to mention vibrant cities, natural wonders galore, and a pleasing four season climate.

In our estimation, many Washington wines are becoming as well known as California’s. It’s not surprising, as Washington is the second largest wine producing state in the country. To illustrate the importance of Washington’s wine industry, over 500 Washington wineries add almost $3 billion to the state’s economy, and employ more than 29,000.

There’s so much to discover about Washington wine, so let’s focus on Washington’s eastern area, known as the Inland Empire, and in particular the strikingly beautiful city of Spokane.

Introducing Spokane

One of the first things you’ll notice about Spokane is how the great outdoors literally snuggle up to this friendly city. Bisected by the Spokane River, white water rafting, skiing, cycling tours, and hiking opportunities abound. And yet, the vibrant pulse of this high tech city is always on display, with live music and fantastic restaurants just steps away no matter where you turn.

The city itself is wonderfully walkable, interspersed with historic architectural gems that have been restored and reinvented. Our first evenings discovery was the Davenport Arts District, a lively arts and entertainment area.

The Davenport Arts District is really where you’ll feel Spokane’s pulse. Historic buildings house galleries, restaurants, and unique shops. This is an ideal late afternoon and early evening stroll, with extra time the next day to fully appreciate all the District has to offer.

Just a few of the shops we discovered were Simply Northwest, which features specialty foods, wines, and regional gifts, and the whimsically named Spokandy, a local candy making institution since 1913. Next, it was time for dinner at the Steam Plant Grill, housed in an historic handsome landmark former steam plant.

This was dinner as it should be. Steam Plant Grill focuses on local ingredients, hearty portions, and reasonable prices. Try the planked salmon, beer cheese soup, and the basil cream ravioli. Don’t miss dessert … the vanilla bourbon stout float is made with the onsite brewhouse’s oh-so-delicious dark stout beer and creamy premium vanilla ice cream.

Spokane Wineries

Twelve wineries call Spokane and the surrounding area home. Spokane itself is compact enough, so driving distances aren’t burdening. Many of the wineries are clustered fairly near downtown, with others just slightly farther afield. Conveniently, 12 of the 14 are quite near the Spokane River, which bisects the Spokane area as it meanders east/west.

Wineries East Of Downtown

Arbor Crest Wine Cellars: Wine Spectator named Arbor Crest one of “50 Great Producers Every Wine Lover Should Know”. It’s located in the Cliff House, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Located high on a bluff overlooking the Spokane River, the view is almost better than the wine here. Look for award winning Cabernets in particular.

Knipprath Cellars: Located in a handsome old red brick schoolhouse, Knipprath boasts an impressive selection of Port wines, a favorite of ours. Have you ever tried a Vanilla Port or a Chocolate Port? You can here! We also loved the Moonstruck Merlot, with its notes of brown spice and plum.

Latah Creek Wine Cellars: If you like Rieslings as we do, you’ll enjoy Latah Creek. The extensive gift shop here is one of the nicest we visited on this trip. Also be sure to try a Washington specialty, the Huckleberry d’Latah. This wine is a blend of huckleberries, a small blueberry-like fruit, with Riesling.

Nodland Cellars: What a wonderful small boutique winery this is. Just like many European estate wineries, Nodland produces only one red and one white wine. These wines are aged in French Oak barrels, adding to the smooth complexity of the finished product.

Wineries North Of Downtown

Mountain Dome Winery: Located in the foothills of Mt. Spokane, Mountain Dome is something of a change of pace, as they are Washington’s premier sparkling winery. One of the key differences between production of sparkling wines vs. regular wines is the lengthy bottle aging, thereby producing a secondary fermentation. These wines are fun to drink, and add a new dimension to a wine lovers palate.

Townshend Cellar: This small winery north of Spokane offers small lots of quality wines, many of which have been praised by the wine press. The reds are the star here, especially the rich dark fruit taste of their Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Wineries In And Near Downtown

Barrister Winery: We literally walked right into this winery, housed in a early 20th century brick building in the heart of the Davenport District. It’s red wine heaven here. Barrister produces limited quantities of Bordeaux style reds and Syrahs.

Grande Ronde Cellars: Wine Specator loves Grande Ronde Cellars, having raved about their Cabernet and Merlot. The real star for us, though, was the creamy Chardonnay. The bouquet of apricot and peach truly was the forebearer of great things to come.

Lone Canary Winery: This was our personal winner of “best winery name” in the Spokane area. But Lone Canary is more than just a name, although the logo is eye catching and named after Washington’s state bird, the wild canary. The wines here have great depth and complexity, from the deliciously fruity Cabernet Sauvignon to Bird House Red, a red blend.

Robert Karl Cellars: Located in the heart of Spokane’s historic warehouse district, Robert Karl Cellars specializes in premium Cabernets. These wines are ideal to cellar for a time to bring out their true mature flavor. In particular, we recommend the rich red Syrah and the Claret.

Vintage Hill Cellars: This downtown Spokane winery is a very comfortable and pleasant place to stop and taste. We bought a few bottles of Vintage Hill’s Sauvignon Blanc and the Riesling.

Of course, eastern Washington and Spokane are just a part of Washington’s wine scene. In the meantime, don’t overlook Spokane! This is an appealing destination whether you crave outdoor activities, historic architecture, city life, or all of the above!