Don't Eat the Plums: Rescuing a Favorite Fruit

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Carol Ann Sayle


It's nice when a weather catastrophe—the long freeze of early February for instance—opens the way for something really good to happen. A lot of plants, especially perennials, seem to want to make up for the near-death experience. Such is the case for our little grove of wild Mexican plums.

We dug up one small tree near our country farm five years ago, as the entire roadside plum civilization was to be destroyed in a county effort to "clean up" the bar ditches. We were sad about the destruction. Over the years, we had helped ourselves to buckets of miniature plums which Larry, my husband, turned into delectable jewel-gold jelly.


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We figured we'd never have enough plum trees to make a large quantity of jelly again, but we wanted at least to have a memory tree. So we planted the tree in the house garden at our Austin farm, and the next spring it made three gold plums. We left them on the tree; they dried up and dropped to the ground, and we had two more trees the next year. Each year we resisted the temptation of eating even one plum "drop" dusted with sugar to balance its tartness. And we were rewarded with a few more petite trees. Now there is a nice little "forest" of three-to-five-foot tall trees, and this spring they are loaded with more blossoms than ever before. Possibly the trees want to ensure the survival of their kind, after such a hard winter.

The plums are the size of a cherry tomato, a "Sun Gold" tomato to be exact, and mouth-puckeringly tart. They make a beautiful jelly or a delicious tart, but I love simply to see them, first in bloom, then studded with the golden fruits.

Here's hoping another freeze doesn't come along at the wrong time and end the pleasure. And further tame our anticipation of future jelly!

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Carol Ann Sayle is co-founder and co-owner of Boggy Creek Farm, a five-acre urban, organic farm in Austin, Texas.

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