Vic Johnson, a Fairbanks NAFEX member, was perusing the fruit exhibits at the Alaska State Fair in Fairbanks this summer when he spotted an entry of ripe plums! He got the name of the entrant from the tag and called Roxanne Braban who lives at 6.5 mile old Richardson Highway, North Pole. Roxanne told Vic that her mother had purchased the plants about 12 years ago and called them Eskimo plums (Vic thinks they are Manchurian plums) and planted them on the south side of their house. The tree is now 8 feet tall and has an approximately 3 inch diameter trunk. It has long arching branches and it’s quite spindly because it has never been pruned. It bloomed for the first time ever during the Spring of 1987 but none of the flowers set fruit. It is the first plant to bloom in the area, long before the choke cherries, while there is still patches of snow on the ground, and Vic thinks there are no pollinators around at that time. This past spring, a bloomed again and the owner sprayed the flowers with a chemical fruit set. By fair time there were hundreds of ripe fruit hanging from the branches. Vic says the fruit is tasty, sweet and delicious! Roxanne’s entry in the fair was awarded only a third-place ribbon. Would you believe chokecherries won first place? Maybe the judges couldn’t believe they were grown here, especially in North Pole, one of the coldest spots in the interior.
Vic also mentioned that he harvested and ate his first hardy kiwi (Kolomikta strain) on August 23rd. These were new plants that had just been set out this spring. They set four fruit, but one fell off. Vic planted the kiwis on the south side of his house, and the plants now have 4 to 5 shoots, each about 2 feet long. It remains to be seen if they survive their first winter in Fairbanks.
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