Sweet Start

LIHUE — The Department of Land and Natural Resources opened the season for plum harvesting at Kokee State Park on Saturday.

Crowds of young and old came out with pickers, bags and buckets to collect the popular fruit.

Greater numbers of large plums are expected this year due to cooler than average winter temperatures.

Harvesting of the Methley Plum is encouraged to slow the spread of this Japanese cultivar introduced to Hawaii in the 1930s. Although generations have enjoyed collecting these tasty, reddish purple fruits for decades, the fast-growing trees have become so widespread they often crowd out unique endemic plants, said a park ranger.

The large amounts of fallen fruits in turn attract feral pigs that quickly erode hillsides and prevent disturbed soil from allowing native flora to germinate, said some plum gatherers on Saturday.

Each person is allowed to gather up to five pounds of plums per day. Plum pickers are reminded to remove litter and refrain from climbing the fragile trees that can pose a safety hazard.

A short pole with a net makes harvesting much easier and provides enjoyment for the whole family. When prepared as a favorite Japanese dish umeboshi, the pickled green plums make a salty sour treat believed to possess many health benefits.

Required permits to harvest the plums within park boundaries are available at the Kokee Museum daily from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. or at the State Parks office in Lihue weekdays from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Permits are free, and the short forms must be completed and dropped in the box at the Kokee Museum after picking. Harvesting is permitted between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. in designated areas only.

Info: 274-3444

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