Plum season in the pits

LIHUE — This year, the island’s rainy season was lacking in its signature element: Rain. For the plum trees in Kokee State Park, the dry spell has translated to a poor, small harvest.

Despite the less-than-ideal pickings, the Kokee plum trees are set to open for public harvesting on Friday, July 3. Permits to pick the fruit that line several of the hiking trails will be available starting at 7 a.m. at Kokee State Park headquarters. There is no cost to participate in the plum harvest, but forms must be completed and dropped in the box after harvesting.

Each person will be allowed to take up to five pounds of plums per day for personal consumption — assuming there’s enough to go around.

“We’ve been having less than terrific crops in the last several years and we’re not entirely positive why,” said Dan Quinn, administrator for the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ State Parks Division. “Speculation this year is it may be the lower rainfall we had December through July.”

So far this year, rainfall gauges across Kauai have recorded precipitation at levels that are about 50 percent below normal, according to the National Weather Service. A 45-mile stretch of coastline from Kapaa to Polihale is in the throes of a moderate drought. Interior Kauai, where the plum trees stand, is one mark less severe, which is abnormally dry.

Kokee’s plum trees were planted along select hiking trails in the 1930s, Quinn said.

“The plums were intended to be snacks for people hiking the trails,” he said. “They’re available for people to enjoy.”

”The plums might be a little harder to get to this year,” he added. “They might be a little out of reach. My recommendation is to bring a picker.”

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