Plums are a rare seasonal fruit common from around December to early March in Kenya. In terms of value addition, plums have unending possibilities. From being served as a snack or dessert, to making jams, sauces, puddings, jellies, wine, baking and even dried to extend shelf life.
Plums Farming In Kenya Overview
The Kenya plum, which usually flourishes in the Central highlands at the foot of the majestic Mount Kenya gleefully comes to fruition in mid-December to early March. Its season lasts up to the twilight of March.
Plums are some of the most exclusive fruits in the world given the fact that they did not sprout much in the wild before humans domesticated them? In fact, among the best-known varieties, three have no trace of having an original habitat in the wild but, do, in fact, trace their cradle to European and Asian settlements of about 10,200 BC. Though many believe China to be the first home of the plum, nowadays the Japanese plum is choice among the world’s population.
This reveals a proud fruit that, long ago, grew side by side with other kingly species like olives, fig trees and grapes! Even in Kenya, the tree does not conform to the ‘spread your wild oats’ theory for you can only find it in its perennial majesty in select places in chosen homes.
The tree flourishes in cool and wet conditions. The species can attain a maximum height of 12m with an impenetrable canopy (when fully blossomed) of 10m wide. At between 1 and 3 inches in width, the juicy, delicious berry can be held easily between the thumb and forefinger to reveal its soft texture.
Given the choosy nature of growth conditions (at 2000m above sea level), it is no secret that the capital, Nairobi, being only a throw away distance from the highlands has to scramble for the fruit during its short spell of availability around December-February, before it finds equally eager consumers abroad.
This reminds one of the how the Kenya plum season can be a great yardstick for measuring the manners of locals and expatriates alike when it comes to handling the fruit. Across the street, most Kenyans usually rub the waxy coat of the red or green plum and munch away at it from its polythene package, while non-residents keep the taste buds afire by saving the best for last: they actually cook them!
Picking on the above, nutritionists have proven that the Kenya plum is healthy in a number of ways whether served as fresh fruit or a culinary delight. Whether eating them for their yummy qualities as jam, stew, or the most natural way, raw, plums ward off a number of health conditions. Their antioxidant qualities stow away toxins that cause tumors in the body. Studies also showcase the presence of a high degree of fiber or sorbitor at 1.4 dietary grams, sufficient as a laxative against constipation and other colon problems.
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Since ancient times, this blossom, fruit or tree as it is synonymously called, has served folks with a number of eating formulas. If you like the taste of ale but do not want alcoholic drinks, then you can go for the salty, vinegar wine, a plum drink. It is also ‘no holds barred’ for the secret admirer of icy toppings that can look like a factory ice-cream only that they are natural! Indeed, baobing, as it is called in the Far-east is a must have ice-topping ornamented with red plum shaving, on top, to make for a gourmet wonder.
Cost of plums in Kenya
When in season, a kilogram can retail at Ksh 300 to Ksh 350. Even with the pricing being higher compared to other fruits, people still buy this fruit.
Varieties of Plums In Kenya
Plums have more than 2,000 varieties all over the world. In Kenya, some of the common varieties include Shiro, Harry, Cherry plum, Santa rosa, Methyl among others.
They come in different shapes, sizes, colours and flavor profiles, the inviting colours red, yellow and green spread the markets and grocers with great display. When ripe, they can be sweet and juicy to a luscious tart.
Plums Seedlings In Kenya
For quality seedlings, always ensure you get them from a certified nursery. In Kenya you may get intorch with Fruit Africa or Farmers Trend via 0724-559286 / 0752-452939 or +254 790509684
Plums are beneficial and good for your health as they relief constipation, reduce blood sugar, heart diseases and are rich in antioxidants.
Growing Plums In Kenya
Plums can be grown in a wide range of soils. They however thrive in soils that are well drained and with a pH of 5.5-6.5. Regions with temperatures between 15◦C-24◦C, rainfall above 1000mm and at least 8 hours of sunlight exposure is ideal for the cultivation of plums.
To begin, you will require to purchase a grafted tree because plum trees if left to grow alone, result to the tree having extremely large roots. Planting is recommended right when the rains begin or as an alternative, use drip irrigation.
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The holes need to be deeper and wider, and compost manure or fertilizer properly worked in the soil ahead of transplanting. When transplanting, it is important to ensure that the grafted region is at least an inch above the ground and roots safely secure to avoid delays in tree establishment.
After planting, each tree needs to be thoroughly watered. Mulching can be incorporated as a technique that locks the moisture to prevent the tree from drying out and plum skins from splitting.
When the plant is flowering, well-aged organic and compost manure are best. Fertilizers that are rich in phosphorous can also be used for proper tree establishment. If the trees growth is vigorous, plant a cover crop around the tree so that it can use up some of the excess nutrients.
At one year, prune the tree to ensure seasonal growth of the plant and sunlight penetration. At this stage, remove all diseased, dead and broken branches, vertical growing branches, crisscrossing branches that can harm each other and thinned out stems and branches with no fruits.
Birds are likely to eat the buds or ripening plums. Invest in a net cage that can be secured around the farm. To control pests and diseases like stem borer, aphids, root rot can be controlled by applying insecticide and chemicals as advised by an agrovet.
To determine whether plums are ready for harvest, apply gentle pressure and if the skin feels supple then they are ready. For a longer shelf life, harvest the plums with a short stalk attached to the fruit to prevent skins from tearing. Slightly under ripe plums can be kept for up to two weeks after harvest.
Ripe plums can be frozen for up to six months, while dried up plums can be stored for up to 12 months. Both can be used to make jam, smoothies, sauces, bake, etc.
There is endless possibility of markets for growing plums even after its season.
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