Plum Tree Tales

The plum tree in my backyard is awake with white blossoms that shine silver in the moonlight and cluster on the dark wood branches like downy-snow.   These small, soft, flowery nests attract wobbly bees by day and at night waft currents of honeysuckle into the yard, surprising the noses of neighbors or cats with foretold hints of sweet July plums whispered in a small passing breeze.

The blossoms fall, and soon small and cupped bright green leaves sprout. As they begin to flatten out, they start the incredible process that is arguably one of the most critical functions on the face of the earth.


Leaves are the engines that drive photosynthesis and springtime is a great time to watch the effect leaves have on the trees and plants that they serve.   So what is photosynthesis?

Simply put, photosynthesis is the process that a plant uses to combine water, carbon dioxide, and sunlight to produce oxygen and sugars (energy).   Harold McGee notes in his book  On Food and Cooking that “the most important development for the future of eating came more than 3 billion years ago with the evolution of a bacterium that could tap the energy in sunlight and store it in carbohydrate molecules (molecules built from carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen).   Chlorophyll, the green pigment we see in vegetation all around us, is a molecule that captures sunlight and initiates this process of photosynthesis.”   Without this bacterium (thanks bacterium, we owe you a big one!) we wouldn’t have an earth as we know it and we wouldn’t know it because there wouldn’t be an us to know.   Photosynthesis allowed plants to create oxygen, which also created ozone – both oxygen and ozone (one to breathe, the other to protect us from ultraviolet radiation) are keys to our survival.   As winter unwinds into spring across the country, fruit trees begin to come out of dormancy, flower, bud and grow fruit.   The energy produced—set in motion originally by that unnamed 3-billion-year-old mother of all great bacterium—is what sustains us.   So remember this year when you look at a fruit tree, think about how hard it is working each day to absorb sunlight and make energy and oxygen.

To find out what the fruits of different trees labor are in your area, check out our In The Mix section by region.  Click the ladybug on our home page at

Enjoy and be Fruitful! – Chris Mittelstaedt

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