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

Kuala Lumpur Travel Tip – Series 3 (Weird Food)

Malaysia has many weird food (weird even to some locals) to offer, and most of them can easily be found in Kuala Lumpur. However, each state in Malaysia offers its own special delicacy. For example, budu in Kelantan, keropok lekor in Terengganu, cencaluk in Melaka. However, all of them are easily found in Kuala Lumpur. Be sure to treat yourself with these :

Petai – Green beens from the deep jungle, which some people say smell like methane gas. Its popularly cooked in sambal tumis ikan bilis – which is fried chili with anchovies. However, locals absolutely love them eaten raw as ulams (almost equal to the western salad). Petai is also enjoyable grilled or boiled. A typical dipping with petai is sambal (chili paste), budu (a fish sauce) and tempoyak (a paste made from durian). Budu and tempoyak themselves are also considered ‘weird’ food.

Durian – A fruit as big as a football, covered with tough spiky skin. The pulp is pale yellow, with shape and consistency of raw brains. Smell has been compared to rotting flesh, old gym socks, or sewage. Yet the taste has been called so exquisite that a European explorer of the 1700’s claimed it was worth the journey to experience it; “the King of fruits.” Many believe it aphrodisiac and hold durian-eating parties. Most hotels, and so on, forbid it on the premises.

Keropok Lekor – Its not what you think it is. Its actually fish sausages, normally deep fried and dipped in a sweet chili sauce (tastes almost like plum sauce). The best keropok lekor you can find is available in the state of Terengganu (where many fishing villages are). Fresh caught fish are brought to roadside stalls, where the fish are deboned, cooked and made into fresh keropok lekor you can ever find, made right in front of your eyes.

Otak-otak – Brains anyone? Otak literally means brain. But otak-otak has nothing to do with it. Otak-otak is made by pounding fresh fish into a paste, and mixing it with chilies, coconut milk, and spices, then wrapping the whole thing in a banana leaf and grilling it. When the banana leaf chars, the fish is read to eat.

Some are unique, but not so horrible looking. Make sure you try these:
Lai Chee Kang, ABC (Air Batu Campur/ Mixed Ice), Longan drink, Karipap (curry puffs), cendol (colorful goodies made from starch eaten in cold coconut milk mixed with dark sugar), tapai, pulut, popia, roti canai, the tarik (literally means – pull tea), char kuey teow, and so many others.

Enjoy!

90 Day Interest Free Credit Card From Advanta – The Plum Killer

Unless you haven’t been watching TV or reading newspapers for a while, you have probably heard of the hyped up Plum card from American Express. The Plum card used to be the only card that allowed small businesses to manage their cash flow operations more effectively by delaying their debt payments by up to 2 month (with no interest). The Plum card was so popular and hyped up that a lot of small business went out of their way to get their hands on it and take advantage of its benefit. So it is no surprise that other card issuers are taking a page out of American Express’ book to introduce cards with similar features.

The latest card that comes with similar, if not better, features is the Advanta Platinum 90-Day Interest Free BusinessCard. The 90 days grace card that has just been released by Advanta allows cardholders to defer their payments by up to 3 months. Advanta makes it clear on its credit card application page that the 90 day offer is not an introductory offer, which means that you should expect no major surprises on your bill year after year as far as this feature is concerned.

Advanta also offers generous credit limits to small business owners to allow them to use the 90 days interest free card more effectively. So you will have enough credit line to cover your business expenses and more with the Advanta interest free Platinum card. The 90 Days Grace Card comes with a set of platinum rewards which allow you to earn a point for each dollar spent with this card and use it towards travel and merchandise for your small business. In addition, there is no annual fees which sets this card apart from the Plum card (which comes with $185 annual fee).

The only downside to the Advanta 90 day card in comparison to the Plum card is lack of any rewards for paying your bill early. The Plum card gives small business owners a larger percentage in cash back if they pay their bills within 10 days. In addition, the Plum card allows you to defer 90% of your payments for 2 month. With the Advanta 90 day interest free card, you will still be required to make minimum payments but you won’t be charged any interest fees for three months.

While both the Plum cards and Advanta 90 day cards are designed for small businesses and start-ups, they are not for every business owner. If you are planning to put a large sum on your credit card and pay it gradually within 3 months or more, then the Advanta card might be right for you. But if you are hoping to defer your payments for 60 days only, then the Plum card is a better choice. Unlike the Plum card, you don’t have to pay your Advanta debt in full after your 3 months period is over. So that is a big plus for smaller businesses who won’t realize their cash in-flows in three months. If you are a small business or start-up owner and you are looking for a card that allows you to manage your cash flows more effectively, you should definitely review both the Advanta 90 day and the Plum card to find the card that helps you save the most for your business