Plum tree…

It is always at this time of year that I’m on the lookout for Italian plums, or, prune plums, at the fruit and vegetable stands. Forever, August is imprinted in my memory as the season of plums, for which fruit I had early developed a passionate favoritism. It may have been because Anyu always took care to partake of this seasonal delight. During Augusts in early years in Hungary, plum soup and plum dumplings were favourite family meal items. For sure, Ildiko and I were very aware of seasonal ripening of our favourite fruits and vegetables, mainly because we coursed freely through the local countryside and kept a keen eye out for the setting and ripening of various fruits. These we would forage from freely, when the appropriate time came, climbing into trees, and settling on branches to chow down on fruit like our primate forebears. It seems that, if memory serves me at all, most of what we ate then were fruits and vegetables. Whether the offering grew in ditches, abandoned or manicured orchards, it did not escape our rapacious and experimental appetites.

When we first bought this house seven years ago, our immediate neighbour had a small prune plum tree which struggled to stay alive on our fence line. It generously bent its branches into our side yard, and I delighted in taking from it several handfuls of ripe plums. From these I’d make plum dumplings for a treat for Rumpole and Renaissance Man. I had no accurate recipe for the dumpling dough, but had watched how over the years Anyu had made the dough by combining handfuls of ingredients – mashed potatoes, flour, salt and beaten eggs. She had wrapped halves of prune plum in discs of the dough, added a sprinkle of sugar and then sealed the little packages, which she would cook in a cauldron of boiling water. When the dough globes rose to the surface, they were cooked through. Drained, then smothered in fired breadcrumbs then sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, these made a heavenly feast. No August is complete, without several occasions of feasting on prune-plum dumplings, even if the plums come from a farm stand. My neighbour took out his plum tree three years ago, and since then I have been purchasing the plums rather than pulling them, warm and dusty from their stems on the tree.

Last week, I decided to remedy this situation and bought a gangly, juvenile, Italian plum tree from a local nursery. It is a spindly, leggy tree and won’t bear fruit for at least four more years. I don’t care; the idea of being able to harvest at least some fruit from my own tree is so satisfying. In four or so years, Mousey will be six years old and just getting her tree-climbing legs. She will probably also love to harvest the plums. Lord knows as a suburban child she is isolated from the sources of the food she eats. Even having the two small blueberry shrubs we do , she is able to gather the fruit by herself, and know directly where the fruit she so adores comes from – not the grocery store, but from spindly bushes in grandma’s back yard and other such places.

As soon as prune plums become locally available, I shall prepare a feast of Hungarian plum dumplings for all of us – and then show her that the young tree in my front yard will soon be providing the delicious fruit, year in, year out, God and the weather willing.

11 Responses to “Plum tree…”

  1. owlfarmer Says:

    I’m terribly glad that you included a link to your blog with your comment on my latest post–since all I had was the link to the Blogger blog, which didn’t have any content (I kept waiting . . .). I found it hard to believe that anyone who had such interesting things to say about what I had to say wasn’t herself writing on a regular basis. And here you are. Now I’ve got a couple of years worth of effort to go back and look at, a “task” I look forward to with pleasure.

    And thanks also for posting on backyard fruit. I’ve got the figs and pears at the moment, but the pears are ready for picking (the figs are nearly gone), and I’ll be hunting around for new takes on pear chutney. Adapting your description of plum dumplings to pears now seems a possibility. And if I run into any antique Hungarian cookbooks along my path, I’ll let you know.

  2. ybonesy Says:

    Sounds wonderful, G. Plum dumplings and plum dough. I’ve never seen them, but I love the plum (and, same as owlfarmer, the fig and the pear). Also baked quince, which are a real Old World fruit. Good luck with your tree. I woke up this morning wondering what types of trees and bulbs should be planted in the Fall (as opposed to Spring).

  3. deanjbaker Says:

    sounds good… looking forward to more

  4. diamondsandrust Says:

    Plum season isn’t it wonderful.I made plum tart at the weekend,and plum crumble yesterday.Must try dumplings.

  5. lookingforbeauty Says:

    These plums are so delicious for eating just as they are. I wait for them too.

    I learned to make French-style pies during my sojourn there. That’s my favourite.
    You refer to them as Italian plums. Our family name for them was always prune plums. Without knowing you had posted this, I bought a whole big bag of them yesterday as we passed through Keremeos on our way up to Lizbet’s house.

    K

  6. suburbanlife Says:

    owlfarmer – pears are such a gift at this time of year. Pear pies are wonderful, especially when laced liberally with ginger. If you make pear dumplings then a squeeze of lemon, brown sugar infused with sprinkles of powdered ginger might make for absolute deliciousness. By the way, your blog is my place to go to really get me thinking and i value your contributions. G

    Oh, ybonesy – quince jam is to die for. my Anyu used to make it back in Hungary, and I am rather surprised how little that fruit is consumed here in North America. I have hd to hold off planting the young tree for a couple of weeks – it has been too hot and would take excessive babying to establish. It’s starting to look good for planting as the weather has turned decidedly Autumnal rather suddenly. Yay and into the ground she goes. When Mousey comes over, she looks at it and calls it “My Tree” as she begins to possess the world at large, being a two year old. What better reason to baby this little tree along? G

    diamondsandrust – Yum! plum tart – makes me salivate just thinking about it. Plum season is certainly worth looking forward to every year – what a blessing, eh? G

    lookigforbeauty – i look forward to you coming home from Lizbet’s so you can make me some of your wonderful French plum pie. I remember the plum pie you and Franc made for my first trip outside the Leukemia ward – back in ’88 – it was the best “welcome back to normal Life” gift and I treasure the memory. Yes, Keremeos prune plums are heavenly – have a good feast. G

    deanjbaker – thanks for your visit and comment, Dean. Get you some good Italian prune plums to welcome Fall 2008. G

  7. Lekhni Says:

    That’s a lovely recipe – I should try making plum dumplings too. We have a plum tree in our yard too, and now it is full of purple plums in every branch. But I suspect that others have been at the plums before me – the oriental fruit moth perhaps. I can’t see any actual bugs, but this year, all the plums are going to be left for the birds 🙂

  8. suburbanlife Says:

    Lekhni – Thanks for your visit and comment.
    Here is how i make the plum dumplings.

    Wash and half the plums, dry, remove pits and set aside. Boil and mash potatoes, set aside. Add one cup of flour for every cup of mashed potatoes, pinch of salt, add a beaten egg and blend together well to make dougH. Handling lightly, rol out to 1/4 inch flat dough sheet. Cot out rounds with a large glass. Place 1/2 plum, pinch of sugar, – wet the ciscumference of the dough and wrap into a ball sealing the packet well. When all the raw dumplings are prepared to this point, cook them in a kettle of boiling water several at a time. When the balls rise to the surface of the water, give them several minutes to cook, and take them out with a slotted spoon, set them to drain on cloth. meanwhile in a frying pan melt butter or ghee, add breadcrums and powdered cinnamon and make a dyish browned crum mixture. Roll the cooked dumplings in this to coat, serve up on plates and dust with more sugar – serve an enjoy. Fattening, but, oh so good. G

  9. lewlew Says:

    G,

    I found your blog doing a search for italian plum recipes. I didn’t think our little tree was going to have much of a harvest this year, as it took *forever* for the fruit to ripen. The plums went from not ripe to “pick me now or else” rather quickly. I filled up both sides of my kitchen sink with fruit! Not too shabby, considering that I thought this was going to be the year the squirrels would get too all the fruit before it finished ripening.

    I made the dumplings this evening, and they are wonderful! Thank you for sharing your recipe and your memories about italian plums. They have become a summer favorite of mine, since we moved into the house we live in now. For the last 5 summers we’ve harvested these little jewels and made all sorts of yummy things, along with snacking on them freshly washed, picked straight from the tree. I’m going to hold on to your recipe to add to my summer favorites!

  10. suburbanlife Says:

    lewlew – thanks for visiting and leaving this comment. I see from browsing your blog that you have issues with wheat products. You might want to experiment with substituting rice flour for the wheat flour when making plum dumplings. That might work for you better. There must be some Chinese dumpling recipes on the net which you might use for reference. I know that much of dim sum dumplings use rice flour and are boiled in a similar way. Who knows, you may be the first to invent Hungarian/Chinese fusion cooking? 😉 G

  11. lewlew Says:

    We’re on the same wavelength, G =). I used a cup of spelt flour (which I tolerate better than wheat) and a cup of oat flour instead of wheat. I was telling my husband, Lew, last night that next time I make it I am going to try white rice flour because I thought the texture of the dough might be a bit smoother.

    I had a couple for breakfast this morning, warmed up, and they are still wonderful!

    Oh, and a note on the bread crumbs– I used the heel of a zuchinni bread loaf I’d made. It was starting to get a bit dry, so I thought it would be good to try. It was also wheat free. It made wonderful crumbs, and I didn’t use much butter due to the oil content in the zuchinni bread. Just enough to moisten the crumbs a little.

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