Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Beach Plum Farm: A Cape May Hidden Treasure

The Virginia Hotel beautifully decked-out for fall.

I never heard of a beach plum, did you? So when H.H. and I visited Beach Plum Farm a few days ago, its name intrigued us.  I learned from The Beach Plum: A History and Grower's Guide that Prunus maritima is native to the sandy North Atlantic coast, from Newfoundland to North Carolina. One of the first plants seen by the Colonists in the 1600's, the beach plum is an excellent conservation and erosion-control plant that can grow in poor soil. I am told the fruit tastes delicious in jelly/jam. I didn't get a picture of the plant when we toured the farm, because I didn't know what to look for at that time. I since learned they have about ten bushes.

We stayed at Cape May's Virginia Hotel, home of the Ebbitt Room restaurant, to celebrate my birthday. We love the Virginia not least because of the delicious food. I started each day, on the front porch, with fresh boiled eggs, toast and incredible home-made jelly. At dinner we enjoyed fresh salads and vegetables from the farm. I relished my favorite drink, their Apple of Eden made with fruit and herbs fresh from Beach Plum Farm. One evening we ate at the Blue Pig Tavern which also provides food grown at the farm. Notice how many times I used the word 'fresh' in this paragraph -- I make no apologies. I love the idea of 'slow food' where restaurateurs serve food grown close to the table. How gratifying that now a national movement focuses on sustainable and 'slow food' practices.

Beach Plum Farm's 62 acres in West Cape May, New Jersey, originally used by the Lenni-Lenape Indians, has a history that includes dairy farming and farming for lima and soy beans. Cape Resorts purchased the farm in 2007 to provide fresh summer vegetables and flowers to their restaurants. Since 2010 they added livestock: pigs, chickens, sheep, and most recently honey bees.

Come with me on a tour of this beautiful location:

The farm produces more than 100 varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers for the company's kitchens. I love the geometrical design of the herb garden beds, each one edged with English boxwood.

The herb garden.

A hedge of hydrangeas borders the herb garden. A few blossoms remained, hinting at its stunning beauty when in full bloom.

Hydrangea macrophylla

Dahlias were still strutting their stuff in the flower garden.

The flower garden

Dahlia pinnata

Sunflowers bloom next to salad vegetables.

They make their own brand of teas at the farm, using lemon verbena, mint, sage, rosemary, and thyme.

We found lemon verbena tea at the farm stand, with honey, its perfect accompaniment.

The Farm Stand

Beach Plum  Farm hens produce 20 to 30 dozen fresh eggs daily.

The hens are housed in a pretty blue henhouse, but they have free range of the farm.

I wonder which hen laid my morning egg today?

The weather that day was perfect -- not too hot and not too cold -- but this hen dug a hole in the sand in which to cool off.

We were fortunate to meet Ali Moussalli, the head farmer at Beach Plum Farm. Ali was loading a truck with hand-picked fruit and vegetables which he then delivered the short distance to their restaurants. Depending upon what is available, the chefs develop their daily menu specials.

Ali gave H.H. a turnip to feed to the pigs.

We found more pigs and other livestock when we walked to the north end of the farm. The road led through a marsh. It was a beautiful walk.

No cars are allowed on this road.

This fat momma had an adorable litter of piglets.

The sheep weren't too interested in us when they realized we had no food for them.

We walked for about an hour. Of course, as it was late in the season, we didn't see the extent of the crops. There were 5,000 asparagus crowns, 500 strawberry plants, 700 blackberry cuttings, and 1,000 raspberry cuttings planted in recent years.

Some of the fields of crops were bordered with zinnias. They are much loved by the bees. 

Hedge of zinnias.

 The beehives are a new addition this year.

I love Ali's comment about bees in the Summer/Fall edition of Concierge magazine. He says,  
"They are an incredible world unto themselves. The more you learn the more impossible they sound. I'm new to harvesting honey so I'm not an expert, but they have this crazy-high consciousness and type of intelligence that is really alien. They are extremely important to the world. I just saw a quote from, I think, Albert Einstein. He said if bees were to die out tomorrow our species would only live three or four more years."

We returned to the farm stand, anxious to purchase honey, before leaving this wonderful place.

I was sorry to leave Cape May the next day, because we would miss the annual harvest festival at the farm, but we enjoyed the lack of crowds, the peace, and the quiet. Maybe next year ...

Happy autumn days to you, my dear gardening friends,
Pamela x

Migrating monarch rests on the beach  

Cape May lighthouse

~~ I love reading your comments. I hope you leave one so I’ll know you visited!
I look forward to visiting your blog in return.


  1. Pam this looks like an incredible place. Especially the beehives and honey.

  2. Happy belated birthday. What a fabulous place, the Virginia Hotel looks wonderful all decked out in its autumn finery. I love how they grow all the food they use, those gardens must be stunning.

  3. Pam first how adorable to see a monarch resting on the beach....love this spot but never saw or stayed there...just frequented the beaches as a child. But oh I love farms that have restaurants. I may need to add this spot to my list. I can see why you wanted to go there for your birthday...you certainly enjoyed yourself.

  4. What a lovely spot to visit! I'm so glad we got to tag along. The lemon verbena tea and honey look especially nice. Thanks for sharing! -Beth

  5. An interesting place, beautiful and productive garden!

  6. Your trip sounds like heaven. I am going to write down all the information so,we can do something similar. I have been wanting to visit Cape May again because I haven't been there for years.

  7. Loved the tour of Beach Plum Farm....what an incredible place. Glad you guys had such a good time. Kat

    1. Thank you for taking care of our animals, Kat, while we were away.

  8. I grow lemon verbena next to my washing lines. Planning 4 pots at the corners in the new garden. Love the smell, but can't quite imagine a tisane.

  9. This was such a sweet visit and what a wonderful way to celebrate your special day. Thanks for sharing Pam and glad you had a nice birthday!

  10. What a wonderful place! Those are some happy chickens and piggies. Sounds like you had the perfect birthday celebration.

  11. Pam, not very surprisingly I also had never heard of the Beach plum. Just with seeing your pictures, I love that farm. I also wouldn't mind spending a few nights at the Virginia Hotel

  12. Wow...I bet that hydrangea hedge looks amaing when in full colour. Looks like you had a fabulous birthday xx

  13. Pam, you chose such a great place for your birthday, among the nice people, beautiful, healthy plants and bees! I wish more food for our tables come from such places.

  14. What a nice birthday trip to such a lovely spot! We were in Cape May and WIldwood over the summer, and if I had known about this then, I certainly would have tried to see it. Places like that remind you why New Jersey is The Garden State!