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Our first plum harvest!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

When we moved into this house almost four years ago, I knew that I wanted to try to recreate the bounty of the tiny yard we had just left in North Oakland.  It had three mature trees that produced a very large amount of fruit in a very small space:  a plum tree, a Meyer lemon tree, and a golden delicious apple tree. 


We enjoyed each tree in its own season, but the plum tree was truly amazing.  In early spring, it would burst with light pink/white blossoms, that brightened the yard and then rained down on the garden below, temporarily covering it in flowery-snow.  Soon afterwards, the branches would begin to sag as hundreds of tiny fruits covered its limbs.  Every July, my neighbors and I gorged ourselves on plums, plums, and more plums.  They had dark purple skins, and dark, juicy, purple interiors.  We ate the plums fresh from the tree, baked into pies, and made them into jams that lasted until the next summer.  I think that small tree produced over 800 plums in a single year.


During our first winter in our new house, I planted three plum and pluot (plum/apricot cross) trees:  a purple Santa Rosa plum, a pink spotted Dapple Dandy pluot, and a green skinned Flavor Queen pluot.  Last year, they flowered for the first time, and I hoped I would get some fruit, but a late-spring hail storm wiped out the blossoms at just the wrong time.  No fruit at all.  This year (at 3.5 years old), the trees blossomed well again, and all three of them set fruit.  Soon after setting fruit, the Flavor Queen was hit by an insect pest of some sort that wiped out the majority of the tiny green pluots when they were only 1/4 inch across, leaving half eaten fruits to mock me on the branches.  The other two trees were also hit by this pest, but to a much smaller extent.


The remaining plums and pluots grew through the warm, dry spring, and are now hanging on the branches, ripe or nearly so.  I have already harvested about 10 of the deep purple Santa Rosa plums, and another 10 or so are still hanging on the branches, ripening further.  The pluots are a bit behind that schedule, and seem to need another week or two, spreading out the harvest as planned.


Another treat is that my neighbors' plum trees have grown large enough to have branches that hang over into our yard.  We asked them not to cut the branches this year, and are now reaping the "borrowed" harvest from their trees as well.  One neighbor has a young Santa Rosa tree that has given us another 20 plums in the last few weeks, and the other has a wild plum, with tiny purple plums the size of grapes.  The smaller plums are not as tasty to me, but my children love them so we harvest and enjoy them, too.


There are not enough plums this year for cooking projects, but we are certainly enjoying the fresh stone fruit coming from our own backyard.


Garden growth report:  We recently had our first basil harvest of the year, and picked about a cup and a half of basil leaves which we used to make Capresi salad and a little bit of pesto.  It is also the season for the local Anise Swallowtail butterflies to lay their eggs, and we have collected 15 tiny Anise Swallowtail caterpillars from the few small fennel plants in the garden.  My children and I brought them inside to watch them grow, and will release them in a few weeks when they turn into beautiful yellow and black butterflies.

All opinions expressed are my own.
Copyright 2007 Sharon Danks