Last season, Greenbriar Jam Kitchen received 500 pounds of donated beach plums to make 1,000 jars of jelly, which sold — and quickly sold out — at $14 a jar. “That $14,000 was essentially the jam kitchen’s budget for the year,” Ray Hebert, trustee chairman at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, said.
This may be one of Cape Cod’s most unusual fundraisers.
To keep Sandwich’s 117-year-old Greenbriar Jam Kitchen operating, officials are asking supporters to plant a beach plum hedge in their yards this fall and donate the fruit when it shows up next year.
“We don’t need you to write a check; you can support the jam kitchen with donated fruit,” Ray Hebert, trustee chairman at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, said. The museum includes the Thornton Burgess Society in Sandwich, which is believed to be the oldest continuously operating jam kitchen in the country.
Greenbriar accepts other donated fruit, but for Cape Cod, beach plum jelly is the iconic sweet spot.
Looking a bit like cranberries but in a variety of hues from blue-purple to yellow, beach plums are a fruit that grows wild in the sandy soil of the windswept Eastern coast. Those lucky enough to come across a patch of the rare gems while hiking keep the location secret, and even those who grow a cultivated strain at home do so quietly so as not to tempt plum poachers.
“When they bring in the beach plums, they don’t even tell me the location,” Hebert said.
Last season, Greenbriar Jam Kitchen got 500 pounds of donated beach plums to make 1,000 jars of jelly, which sold — and quickly sold out — at $14 a jar. “That $14,000 was essentially the jam kitchen’s budget for the year,” Hebert said.
In addition to supporting Greenbriar, a beach plum hedge could help your yard and the Cape’s environment.
“People always ask me ‘What can I do?’ There is good scientific evidence for the importance of native trees, shrubs and wildflowers,” Chris Neill, Ph.D., climate scientist at Woods Hole Research Center, said in an interview about a Native Plants Study released in the spring.
A wide variety of yards in six cities, including Boston, were studied. One of the key findings was that native plants (such as beach plums for the Cape) drew bees for pollination, triggering a chain reaction toward an ecosystem that is specifically local.
“The fact these things are native makes a real difference in attracting insects and feeding birds,” Neill said.
Incorporating native plants also cuts down on the size of manicured lawns, he said, which is important on Cape Cod because lawn fertilizers are associated with nitrogen runoff that pollutes water.
Russell Norton, agriculture and horticulture extension educator for the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension program, emailed that beach plums are “a suitable edible native that can easily be incorporated into a home landscape or in a natural border.”
He said the extension service encourages the plant’s use by making seedlings available