Half a block away, the prune plum tree in the back yard of our rental house is bent over with fruit. The branches are almost breaking as the plums ripen. They lean over the fences, which sag under their weight. Deep purple plums, dusty and sweet, cling to the branches. I have hauled home baskets full—dried them, made plum jam, pickled them, and baked two upside down plum cakes—and I’ve cleared one branch. It’s a problem. Our tenants began the distribution pattern. One took bags of the fruit to work. The next day, his co-workers were looking at him expectantly. “More plums?” they asked. He obliged. While doing house repairs, I brought bowls over to both of the neighbors. Then school started. I work with at least sixty people. I brought a large basket of plums. They were gone in twenty four hours. “Yes!” I thought, and gathered another basket.
Within a few days, the counter of the staff room held a huge bowl of plums—and a bag of apples. Then there were some zucchini. Tomatoes. Peppers. Flowers. Lemon cucumbers. The attendance clerk bought a food dryer from Bi-Mart and asked for a bag of fruit to dry. I obliged. Two other people wanted plums for drying. More plums piled into baskets, brought into school. By now, I have left a trail of dropped plums from my house to work; like Hanzel and Gretel, I can find my way home again. Conversation in the office revolved around drying time and fruit prep. It is easy, I assured them. Cut the fruit in half, push it out a bit to expose more surface, and put it in the dryer. I dry my fruit until it is almost crispy, because I don’t want to worry about mold. Then, I pour it into quart canning jars (everything in our house is stored in canning jars) and stash it on the basement shelves. No dipping, no freezing, no fuss.
The overflow of fruit is almost over for the year. My green beans and tomatoes are slowing down, the zucchini plants all have powdery mildew, and the plums that remain are almost over ripe. I will probably pick one more round for the school counter Monday evening and call it good. But, this year, I have learned that the surplus is not always where you believe it to be, and there is always a home for fresh fruit.
Plum Upside down Cake-- from Moosewood Desserts
1/2 cup butter
3/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1.5 t BP
.5 t cinnamon
.5 t salt
2 t vanilla
Cream butter and sugar, add eggs and buttermilk, then dry ingredients.
Before pouring batter into pan, line it with 6-8 plums, cut in half. Then pour 1/4 cup of melted butter and 1/4 cup of brown sugar over the plums.
Bake in 350 degree oven until done, flip and release while still warm. A spring form pan makes this easy.