OPINION

It's time for sandplum jelly again in Kansas

Lyn Fenwick
St. John News
Sandhill plums are a welcome product of the natural prairies in southcentral Kansas.

Sandhill plums sometimes come in overabundance to the Kansas prairies, some years they are scarce. I wasn't sure what kinds of harvest we would have in 2021, but there are some out there. And they are ready for the picking.

The 2019 sandhill plum season was terrific, and I can't remember how many jars of sandhill plums I made.  We shared them with friends across the United States.  

Unfortunately, 2020 there was a late frost and it killed the plum crop.  We had shared most of the jelly I canned, and we were down to our last jar this spring.  We had a light freeze this year, and I was afraid that there would be no plums again.  I watched carefully, and I was delighted to see that the freeze had not killed the plums.  I could hardly wait!

Then, disaster struck!  Someone sprayed along both sides of our road, where I love to pick the plums.  If you remember an earlier blog, I photographed one particular area where the plums are particularly large.  That is one of those large plums hiding in the sprayed bushes.  Obviously, even if a few of the plums survived the spraying, we could not have risked eating them.

My heart was broken.  A few days later I crawled over the fence and went into the pasture to see if there were plums there.  Fortunately, there were, and although picking in the overgrown pasture is not as pleasant, at least I knew were would be plums.

Our pasture is unplowed prairie, and since we don't have cattle, the plum bushes have practically taken it over.  We keep planning to get rid of some of the bushes, but we keep putting it off.  The creatures love it, and both times I walked up to check on the ripening plums, I scared up a deer.  

For those of you hunters who read my blog, it is posted NO HUNTING.

My husband kindly mowed around some of the bushes so I would not have to walk through the overgrown pasture, and when we checked on the progress of the ripening, he went with me to pick.  The plums on the right (more ripe) are from that first picking, and as you can see, they are smaller.  It took a great many of them to make only 5 1/2 small sized jars, and the taste is not as sweet.  That day's picking also resulted in a special surprise for me--two ticks!  Fortunately for me, I discovered both of them while they were wandering around on me looking for a juicy place to bite!  They have now gone to wherever ticks go when they die!

With only 5 1/2 small jars, and one of those definitely going to my sister-in-law, who had shared her cherries with me, my husband offered to go by himself to pick enough plums for an least another batch.  He was the one who discovered a bush in the pasture with the nice large plums like I usually pick along the fence--the ones I thought were lost forever!

The nice big plums needed some ripening, but in a couple days I was able to mix them with some of the smaller ones already picked, to make more jelly.  We should have enough jelly to get us through the winter...and maybe even another year if frost kills the 2022 crop!  The pasture has enough plums to share, for some of you local jelly makers, but cover up well and check for ticks as soon as you get home.  And, if you neighbors do decide to come picking, please check in at the house to let us know its you driving through our yard.