LUTHER, Okla. (KFOR) – Pick the poorest, sandiest soils, the creek banks and fence rows where brush hogging tractors can’t reach.
That’s where Shawn Dickensen looks for sand plums.
“You have to dig your way through some of the thickets that have some nice thorns on them,” he smiles. “So it’s a good workout. I like foraging, so it’s right up my alley.”
He found this 40 acre patch looking for a fishing spot several years ago.
Shawn didn’t know much about this fruit at the time so he made a call to the Oklahoma Agriculture Department and they were happy to fill him in.
“They told me there was quite a bit of fruit out there and that I should start selling it,” he recalls.
A long time before European settlement, Native American tribes picked them for eating and medicine.
During the Dust Bowl years, this was the only fruit anyone could find on the prairie.
It got people through hard times, but Dickensen says there was a cost.
“A lot of people got sick of eating them during that time. So, when the Dust Bowl was over nobody wanted any more sand plums.”
So they often grow and produce quietly.
Shawn looks for patches like these in Oklahoma and Texas, picking hundreds of pounds himself and with a crew.
“I guess you’ve gotten pretty good at spotting these plants,” prompts a novice picker.
“Oh yeah,” responds Shawn. “I can probably see them from a mile away.”
Rain brings fruit.
Summer heat ripens it.
His best year, Riverside Sand Plums picked 3,000 pounds of fruit.
Dickensen says, “This year we have 4,000 pounds pre-ordered, so I’m hoping this will be our best year.”
They still grow wild.
Food for deer, birds, insects, hogs, and smart people who know where to find them.
The Oklahoma sand plum makes good jelly, butter and even barbecue sauce.
They are diamonds in the rough or rubies in the brush and worth hunting even on the hot days.
“It’s a good deal,” says Shawn. “A very good deal.”
Sand plums are actually endangered now in the eastern U.S.
Riverside Sand Plums sells fruit in season (March through August) and starter trees through his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/riversidesandplums.
Great State is sponsored by WEOKIE Credit Union