Satsuma plums

plum-garden

Plums are one of my favourite fruits and I have great memories of eating plums as a kid. I only planted this tree 18 months ago and have had my first harvest. The fruit was actually pretty juicy and better than any plums I’ve ever tasted before. They were very much enjoyed while they lasted.

The tree is still small so the bird net did it’s job and I hardly lost any to birds. However, a bird did get it’s foot caught in the net and died which was pretty awful. I’m not sure how to avoid that happening again. This post is actually late as the fruit all got harvested a couple of weeks ago. I got about 8 kilos of fruit and most of it was eaten fresh but I also made jam.

Plum Jam recipe

1 kg pitted plums

500 grams sugar

juice of one lemon

This recipe works with any quantity of fruit. It’s a ratio of 2 parts fruit to 1 part sugar. It makes a loose jam.

This fruit was large so I cut it into eight pieces. Put all the ingredients into a pot and cook on low heat for an hour or so. Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat as the sugar will burn. Take off any frothy impurities with a spoon. Freeze a small dinner plate so you can test when it’s ready. It’s ready when you take half a teaspoon out of pot and it sets a little like toffee on the plate. Pour mix into steralised jars and then seal. Boil jar for at least 10 minutes and let cool. Store in dark cupboard and eat within the year.

Urban foraging

Truth be told that most urban areas are not known for having edible plants growing in public spaces. Some notable exceptions to this include Cuba’s urban farming and the town of Todmorden in the UK. In Australia we have Buderim’s food street where the verges have been planted out with edibles to share. I really hope these exceptions become the norm one day.

Not incorporating edibles into urban landscapes is not only a shame but also means so many lost opportunities. So many lost opportunities to:

  • recognise the seasons and see what amazing produce is on offer
  • connect with others living in the community while picking and preserving the produce
  • taste produce at its best
  • have a closer connection to our environment
  • provide greater self reliance to get through difficult times.

There are laws around foraging in public places and while I’m not an expert it’s generally not encouraged. For example, in South Australia native plants can only be picked on crown land if you have a permit. It’s ok to forage natives on private property as long as it’s done responsibly and the local population remains intact. In urban areas issues of private land ownership arise and over harvesting of plant populations come into play. Most of the problems with foraging seem to stem from plant illiteracy and greed when people wish to profit from their finds.

I’m not going to go into detail about the principles of responsible foraging here other than:

  • know what you are picking
  • make sure you responsibly harvest whatever you are picking
  • pick what you need and leave what you don’t.

In my local area I have discovered some edibles growing along a council drain following an initial discovery of a plum tree. While picking the plums I noticed that there were also nectarines in the drain next to some of the dropped plums. I wandered up the drain to find where the nectarines were coming from. They were falling off a tree that was hanging over the fence. I also found in a very short distance a banana tree, grape vine, rosemary and mulberry tree.

This space is a great contender for some guerrilla gardening. The eroded drain provides a source of ground water for the established trees as well as a seasonal supply for watering the baby trees and plants by hand. Usually the drain is well dry at this time of year but had some water flowing due to the recent unusual storms. I’ll need to ponder a bit more about future guerrilla plantings in this space.

drain

Back to the plums. I gathered up some plums before Christmas and we ate them fresh. They were very tasty and tart which is how I like my plums. We went away for a week and during that time there was a four day heat wave. When I went back to the tree most of the fruit seemed to have fallen and it was now very ripe. They were still tasty so I collected some to make some fruit leather.

Plum leather recipe

plums

Get a large pot and a bowl ready for pips. Take the plums and squeeze between fingers over the pot. The seed should become loose and easy to remove. Place pips in bowl. Once all the plums have had their seeds removed squeeze some lemon over them. I used about half a lemon for 2 kgs of fruit. Put pot on medium heat on stove. Once the juices start releasing turn the heat down to simmer. Once enough juice has been released, use a stick blender to blend plums into a puree. Simmer for 10 mins and turn heat off.

At this point the puree needs to be dehydrated. If you have a dehydrator use that. I don’t have one so I use the oven. Prepare some baking trays by placing baking paper on them. Get a soup ladle and put the puree on the baking paper about 1/2 cm thick. Spread out puree evenly on tray using the back of a spoon and gently tap it to level out the puree. Place all the trays in the oven and cook on low heat 80c. Check regularly but expect it to take up to 8 hours to dehydrate. It’s ready when the mixture peels back from the baking paper.

Apricots, peaches, plums and nectarines

I have never appreciated stone fruit until moving to Adelaide. Maybe it’s because the fruit I was eating in the past was picked, under ripe and a long way from where I was eating it. If you can get the fruit before the birds do you’ll have an abundance of fruit right through January. Starting early are the apricots, then come the white plums, purple plums, yellow nectarines and million dollar peaches. Eating fresh straight off the tree is great, but these fruits generally ripen at the same time and need some preserving or sharing with friends and family. Some ways to use the excess fruit are to dry fruit either in pieces or as fruit leather, cooked in tarts and free form pastries or made into jam.