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For Years, Local Families Like This Boy’s Have Coveted These Special Places To Pick Beach Plums

An Alabama family is mourning the loss of a mother and unborn child who died after complications from COVID-19.

Haley Richardson, 32, was almost 7 months pregnant when she was admitted to the hospital, WKRG reported. Her unborn daughter died Aug. 18 and she died two days later on Aug. 20.

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Richardson was a labor and delivery nurse at the Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, Florida. She and her husband, Jordan, lived in Alabama with their 2-year-old daughter.

Jordan Richardson told WKRG his wife became sick after testing positive for the virus at the end of July. She had decided to not get vaccinated due to fears of what could happen to their unborn daughter.

After being at home sick, her heart rate went up and she was taken to the hospital and then transferred to the ICU at USA Health’s main hospital campus in Mobile, Alabama.

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A 5-year-old boy darts through the sand around his home near the Indian River Inlet. He looks over his shoulder at the woman following him with a small woven basket and beckons her to follow.

Just moments before, this little boy watched as Krista Scudlark picked blueberry-like fruit off small trees at his parents’ home. He knew she was trying to find the best fruit to make jelly, so he decided he’d give up his secret — just this once.

“Miss Krista,” he said in a hushed tone. “I know where there’s a lot of beach plums.”

So, she followed the young boy through the sand, ducking underneath branches and dodging prickly cactus plants until they stumbled upon short bushes bursting with ripe fruit. He was right, Scudlark now recalls more than 20 years later: this was “the best spot” to pick beach plums.

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Native fruit that grows in the dunes along the Atlantic coast. They’ve passed down jelly recipes and shared stories of searching for ripe fruit under the hot summer sun.

Diane Hindman’s connection with beach plums started when she was a teenager and her parents bought a cottage east of Milford in Slaughter Beach. She spent many summers exploring the outdoors and the dusty purple fruit that decorated the wiry branches along the dunes.

“That’s when I was first exposed to the joys of beach plums,” she said.

In August, when the humidity weighed heavy and the bugs seemed relentless, Hindman and her family would trudge outdoors to pick beach plums. After sweating in the sand, she and her mother would bring their bounty into the kitchen where her father transformed the beach plums into a sweet jelly with signature tanginess.

Watching her father, Hindman learned everything she could about making beach plum jelly, and eventually she took on the role of chief “jelly-maker.” If her family doesn’t get their beach plum jelly at Christmas, she said, she knows she’s going to hear about it.

Stories like these abound among families who grew up along the coast. Krista Scudlark, owner of Backyard Jams and Jellies in Milton, remembers her grandmother making beach plum jelly in baby food containers — a technique Scudlark initially copied when she first started her business more than 30 years ago.

From the moment she began making jellies, selling them at the local hardware store and her friend’s bakery, Scudlark also kept alive the tradition of making beach plum jelly. But this time she used a recipe and some plums from a neighbor.

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Now, with more than 100 different flavors of jellies and jams, she said the beach plum jelly is probably her best-seller.

“Part of it’s nostalgic,” she said. “It’s so nice to hear so many people that say, ‘Oh, yours taste just like mom’s used to taste or my grandmother’s used to taste. And it’s just that thing, and they were raised with it.

While jellies are the most popular way to eat this otherwise tart fruit, it’s not surprising to hear of some families who have gotten creative with recipes, such as Hindman’s father who made a beach plum liqueur called “beach plum yum.”

One local distillery has even taken this tradition one step further, creating a beach plum-flavored rum.

Greg Christmas, co-founder of Beach Time Distilling in Lewes, made the first batch of beach plum rum before opening the distillery six years ago.

“I remember taking it to a party and having everyone try it and asking what I should change,” he said. “Everyone said don’t change a thing.”

Since then, Sweet baby the beach plum rum — a dark purple alcohol that almost looks black when sitting on the shelf — has only grown in popularity, especially when mixed into the distillery’s top-selling cocktail called the Tsunami. Christmas points to the unique nature of the beach plum as a driving force.

While the tradition of cooking and eating beach plums goes back generations, the history of the fruit in southern Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore can be traced back even further.

Early explorers recorded seeing these beach plums when they first arrived on the Atlantic coast in the 16th and 17th centuries. Some of the names of places throughout Delaware coastal area still show the lasting impact of this native fruit, too.

Now a wildlife refuge north of Lewes, Prime Hook was named when Dutch settlers noticed all the purple beach plums and called the area “Pruime Hoek,” which translates to Plum Point, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Beach Plum Island is also part of the Delaware State Parks system, and Scudlark said she has a theory that the Cotton Patch Hill neighborhood in Bethany Beach may have come from the cotton-like appearance of the beach plum flowers in the spring.

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