Monday, September 28, 2009

Back for Seconds: Prune Plums

When I was a kid, my grandparents lived on a ranch in Sonoma County, just outside Healdsburg, California. We used to go up for weekend visits, or, in summertime, for longer visits. It was great fun for a kid. Sometimes we'd spend a whole day at the Russian River (it bordered their ranch, and we had our favorite swimming spot). My grandmother, Nanna, along with whatever aunts were visiting, would take us down for a morning of swimming. Nanna called us out of the water for lunch and a pop, and then made us sit there for an hour, digesting. Remember that? Not being able to swim for an hour after eating, lest deadly cramps set it, rendering you immobile, and sure to drown? After a drowsy hour sitting (we could barely walk around, the sand burned our feet), she finally let us back in.

View Prune Plums in a larger map

I loved late summer there--the smell of hot red dust hung in the air, along with an acrid smell my sister has since told me comes from the mule fat that grows by the Russian River (it has nothing to do with rendering the fat from the son of a donkey and a horse). And the prunes were starting to ripen.

If you've read my story, 'Please Bring Back Prune Danishes', you probably know how I feel about prunes. I love them. I also love their look. Maybe you've noticed the prunes in my blog's header?

A lot of that has to do with my grandfather, and the prunes he grew and dried on his ranch. But while I mentioned in that story how much I loved eating the warm ones he handed me from the drying racks, I didn't really explain how much I loved those plums before they dried.

Dusty red hills and dusty looking blue plums. I liked to wander among the trees, picking unripe prunes from the trees, or plucking them from the ground (I called them 'prune plums'--I don't know if anyone else called them that). I liked them all ways: ripe with their centers amber, or crisp and sour--still green inside.

If you rubbed those plums, they started to shine, and the blue deepened nearly to black. They weren't as fragrant as the red Santa Rosas, and they were more meaty than juicy. But they were perfect for a kid. For one thing, even when ripe, they were wonderfully portable--a couple of them could safely travel in your pocket back to the house (if you could hold out that long). And when sour? Well, maybe you remember how much kids like sour fruit. A line ran down one side, letting you split it into neat halves. And you could count on them. They might not have been rapturous, but they were never mealy or flavorless.

They are workhorse plums.
Come back Wednesday to see what I'm doing for seconds!

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Laura said...

I love this post! I have a weird obsession with plums, I think because my mother does. I'm just the hugest fan of good plum jam, of plum tarts with layer of walnut cream at the base...everything plummy! And your photos are great, I'm inspired to heat to the market immediately.

Giovanna said...

Thanks--glad you liked it! I hope you'll come back Wednesday for the second part...

lshere said...

How nice, Giovanna. This really takes me back-I can still smell those smells or maybe smell them again.

Charles Shere said...

God, I love prunes. The Walking Mac made a wry face at them last summer, when a little sachet of them appeared with our breakfast in a refuge in the Alps; I pocketed his as well as my own, and was glad to have them as the hot days wore on. I'm experimenting with a few blond prunes a friend brought the other day — yes, blond, a single sport branch on one of their trees — trying to dry them in the sun. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Giovanna said...

Blond prunes--you'll have to share a picture, and let us know how they taste!

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