I’ve lived in Northern California for 3 years now, and in my home in Tiburon for two, so I’ve seen the seasons and how they impact the foliage on my property more than once. Much to my surprise last week, I found two beautiful plum trees on my property, covered in fruit. I swear they were not here last summer, or maybe they simply didn’t have much harvest to show. This year it was hard to miss the branches reaching high into the sky, however, laden with yellow fruit, and I was immediately taken back to my childhood, as my mother grew many fruit trees on our property in Italy. So, when I spotted them my innter hunter-gatherer-jammes took over. In my family, fruit trees are there to be picked and jammed so that sweet fruit can brighten the morning in dark winter months. I established (by checking with my local nursery) that these were edible fruit, and then harvested them quickly, climbing high into the trees to gather the fruit. When I´d brought in as much crop as I could manage, I reaped the reward, cutting, cooking, canning and finally spreading the “fruits of labor” on delicious bread. Who knew an invisible tree could do so much? Come and Cook with us!
The little yellow-pinkish fruits that I found are no larger than cherries, delicously sweet and juicy, with a hint of bitterness in the skins. With the help of my knowledeabel nursery, Bayside Garden Center in Tiburon, we established that they were Mirabelles, a type of Japanesee plum prevalent in Northern California. The trees were probably planted some twenty years ago, and work will have to be done to trip them to a shape that will produce more ¨reachable¨harvest given that half of the fruit was out of reach even to the best of tree-climbers hmong us, including me (although my five-year-old did offer to climb to the top.) This year I harvested roughly ten pounds of fruit (how is it possible that I didn´t see them in my garden last summer?) and picked many of them green (to spare them from the crows), letting them ripen on a few trays in the warmth of the sun. In time they turn from greenish-yellow into a pinkish-orange hue.
I turned my first batch of ripe fruit into jam using the Dellago family recipe, which is an old Sudtirolean specialty handed down from mother to daughter over the generations. This is a recipe for any kind of fruit jam including raspberry, lemon, and apricot, red, white and black currant, plum and quince jam. I am happy to say the recipe worked beautifully; I’ve shared it with you here so that you can jam the fruits that pop up on your property unexpectedly this summer. As for us, we have been inundated with sweet plum jam since my discovery last week and I’m blissfully happy to carry my family tradition to the United States with my very own fruit-tree-jam-production. Come and cook with us!