All about plums
Summer is now in full swing, which means it is plum season. Whether you are lucky enough to have a plum tree or two in your garden or you buy plums fresh from your local greengrocer, they are a delicious fruit and are incredibly versatile when it comes to cooking and preserving. They are also divine eaten as they are, of course – fresh and juicy and full of goodness. Let’s take a look at some plum facts, along with some ideas for tasty plum recipes.
Plum trees normally grow to around five or six metres in height, meaning they are perfect for the medium-sized garden. Left unpruned, however, trees can reach 12 metres. It therefore pays to stay on top of your fruit tree care!
The plum family covers a wide variety of fruits, including some that we might not initially think of such as sloes and apricots. When dried, they are known as prunes and have a somewhat unfair reputation due to their efficacy as a digestive aid or laxative.
Most people are familiar with Victoria plums, but greengages and damsons are from the same horticultural family. These all make excellent jams and jellies.
Humans have been enjoying the plum since Neolithic times and they were eaten widely throughout the Roman Empire.
China is the world’s largest plum producer; however, as it is plum season right now, there is no need to buy from overseas. Most good fruit and vegetable stores will currently have several varieties on offer.
What to do with plums
The humble plum is one of the staples of jam making and preserving. Plum jam is quick and easy to make and you can jazz up your plum jam by experimenting with spices such as ginger or cinnamon. You can even try a pinch of chilli flakes for something completely different. A sweeter plum jam can be achieved by adding a fresh vanilla pod to the pot during the jam-making process – simply remove the pod before bottling.
Plum chutney is another great preserving favourite. Add onions and sultanas to your chopped plum mixture, along with ginger, spices, vinegar and sugar. Plum chutney is perfect with a ploughman’s lunch. Another great idea is a sticky plum sauce for a do-it-yourself crispy duck dinner.
You can, of course, simply preserve any plum surplus you have. Try a spiced preserve recipe using dry red wine, sugar, cinnamon sticks and star anise. Leave for a couple of weeks so that the flavours really infuse and serve as a dessert with crème fraiche or homemade custard.