Foods Indigenous to the Western Hemisphere

Beach Plum

Prunus maritima

By Jeremy Trombley

Beach plums were one of the first fruits that settlers to North America were able to adopt as a food resource. They make excellent jams, and jellies and can be used in a variety of both sweet and savory dishes.

Distribution and Description

Beach plums are found wild along the eastern seaboard from New England to Virginia. Cultivation remains minimal, though many horticulturalists have begun developing different varieties. Researchers at Cornell University, in particular, are working on developing a sustainable beach plum industry in the Northeastern region of the U.S.

The plant is a perennial shrub that blooms in May or June and produces fruits through the Summer. It prefers well-drained sandy soils, and full sunlight, which is why they are traditionally associated with beaches and coastlines. The fruits are ovular and reddish or purple with a juicy pulp and a tart flavor.


Beach plums can be consumed raw, but are most commonly found in jellies or jams. They are often incorporated into a variety of candies, desserts and beverages. In some cases they are used to add flavor and garnish to savory meat and fish dishes especially soft-shelled crabs, which share the same season as the plum. Many other wild fruits share similar characteristics to the beach plum including Canada plums, goose plums and Allegheny plums. All of these may be used in similar ways.

Beach plum plants are also important for beach conservation and stabilization as they play an important role in preserving sandy beach soils.


Cornell University – Beach Plum site

Cape May County Beach Plum Association

Davidson, Alan. The Oxford Companion to Food 2nd Ed. 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, USA, 2006.