The joy of plums

It seems as if we’ve been blessed with quite a few bumper plum seasons in a row. Or is it my imagination?

The other weekend I visited my dad, who has a large garden on the outskirts of Cambridge. There is one particular tree in the garden that I’ve known since I was a boy, way back when Marc Bolan was funking up Top of the Pops.

This tree has borne Victoria plums faithfully for at least 35 years, though it is only since my mother’s death eight years ago that I have truly come to appreciate it, for my weekend visits now entail cooking Sunday lunch. And, come August, that means making plum crumble.

Last weekend I wandered down to that tree and found its branches hanging down, laden with big bunches of ripe plums. The ground beneath was strewn with many windfalls, which were being enjoyed by opportunistic wasps.

I wonder how many more years this tree will continue to produce fruit. Its trunk has large holes in certain places, yet despite the ravages of age it carries on doggedly, faithfully producing prodigious quantities of fruit.

Such dependability is rare in this world. I was struck with a simple sense of wonder at this annual harvest, a symbol of continuity, and felt it deserved a picture.

Ripe Victoria plums are a sight to behold. In their oval, deep-roseate splendour, they are a most attractive fruit. To hold a ripe Victoria plum in the hand, to feel its flesh – firm yet yielding – is a sensory delight.

And then the taste of its sweet flesh: utterly delicious, whether raw with that thrilling tart kick from the skin, or stewed, or used as ingredients in a crumble (pictured, one I ate earlier).

Not until I started cooking did I truly appreciate that fruit, and marvel at how such flavour could come up out of the Cambridge clay.

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