It looks like a good year for plums after optimum weather conditions has produced an abundant crop. Trees are literally bursting at the branches with juicy plums as growers attempt to get a handle on the situation.
The reason there has been such a plentiful crop is the excessively cold winter followed by a perfect spring, with the air slowly warming up – just right for the plums.
Growers normally hope for a minimum of 1,000 chill hours throughout the winter, but this year they were rewarded with closer to 2,000.
Sarah Calcutt, spokeswoman for Norman Collett of Paddock Wood, Kent, which supplies 40 per cent of all plums sold in supermarkets, said, “This chill put the trees into dormancy and gave them a proper rest. Then we had an optimum spring. It got warm gradually and April was beautiful with high temperatures, good sunshine and little wind. This was great for pollination. Now the orchards look stunning and it is going to be the best crop in years.”
Robert Hinge, who grows 15 acres of plums near Sittingbourne and has been producing the fruit for the last 20 years, said, “ I have never seen a plum harvest like it and I have never seen a year with so many fruit on a tree. We supply Marks & Spencer and I was very conscious that I had to ensure the best size for the plums. If you keep all the plums they won’t grow — they stay small and are unsellable — so we have had to spend a fortune thinning the fruit out. It has cost £700 an acre with six people doing it by hand and every plum has been spaced out two inches apart.”
Mr Hinge also commented that plum trees in private gardens could also be producing more fruit than usual this year, however he advises the branches be thinned out to avoid the risk of them breaking from the extra weight and not yielding any plums next year.
We will see this abundant crop appearing on our shelves next month, with the Victoria being the most popular type. On average, a 7ft plum tree is likely to produce around 25kg or 425 plums, however a 21 ft tree could produce as much as 80kg.
Plums are only a small market for British growers with the 14,000 tonnes produced annually worth just £10 million. The total value of all fruit grown in the UK is £521 million.
Better hunt out all those old plum recipes then – plum jam anyone?