a plum deal

still life plums and roses

As we slip into late summer, the light in the evenings fades a little earlier each day and hot sunny days alternate with grey rainy days. On the farm, harvest has finished and the oilseed rape for next year’s harvest has been sown, while in the garden the plums are ripening fast.

Plums seem to straddle summer and early autumn as each variety ripens in succession. In our garden, the deep purple Czar plums are coming to the end as the greengages reach their peak. Anyone walking past the greengage tree seems unable to resist reaching out to pick one of the gloriously honeyed globes although this year we pick with care as we have wasps. Last year we had so many greengages that I made jam but this year the trees have been less fruitful and the wasps have eaten as many as we have. Luckily my mother’s tree was laden with fruit that we’ve been able to share; fresh greengages eaten by the handful on a warm summer’s day are one of life’s delights.


But now, as the weather becomes more changeable and a warm pudding is sometimes more welcome, the earliest damsons are starting to ripen. Although the damsons on our Merryweather tree are sweet and juicy, I prefer to eat them cooked, though that may be because they don’t compare with the greengages. On cooler days, I shake the branches, catching the falling damsons that I know will be ripe and cook them in a crumble where the deep purple syrupy juice bubbles up through the crust. Plum Flapjacks make a treat to hide in the cake tin and jars of Spiced Damsons are lined up on the pantry shelf ready to add to eat with cold meat in a few months’ time.

At the far end of the garden, the fruit on the gnarled old damson tree will be the last to ripen. These damsons are too sour to eat but they make a very good jam and a particularly fine damson gin. Perfect for the cooler autumn days that lie ahead.

28 thoughts on “a plum deal

  1. Don’t they look appetizing in your picture. Our plums have failed this year but we may have one or two in a couple of weeks. Still picking strawberries, raspberries and bilberries here

  2. Your photographs would make a wonderful still life paintings. Lucky, lucky you having plums (or any stone fruit for that matter) … enjoy!

  3. Great photos and a great variety of plums. My girlfriend has a greengage plum tree and often shares them with me . My favorite however are the Damson , they make the best jam. In my village in Germany they make a jam called Pflaumenmus , which I love.

  4. Beautiful photos Anne. We have one greengage tree and one plum (I think it’s Victoria) and I’m waiting for them to ripen. I am a novice fruit gardener so I’m not sure when to pick or how to care for the trees but it’s exciting nonetheless. Your post conjures up a scene of joyful picking and preserving. Lovely.

    1. I’m not very good at knowing when to pick and spend at least ten days squeezing the fruit to see if it’s ripe. The Victorias are just beginning to ripen round here.

  5. my one plum tree didnt give us much of a harvest last year we rarely get enough sun for our fruit to ripen but your essay makes me want to grow more I dont think I have ever had a greengage you dont hear of them that often here in Australia and your photos are beautiful

  6. Gorgeous post Anne. I love my damson plums too. Wonderful things and they make the best jam. I haven’t eaten greengauge before, but they must be delicious. Wonderful images … love the one of all the plums. 😀

  7. Gorgeous photos Anne…where is that glossy, country living magazine! I love the bowl in your first photo, I wonder if there is a story behind it? Enjoy the autumn days x

    1. The only story behind the bowl is that it’s modern! My sister gave me a set of three for Christmas one year – seems the enamel love is spreading.

  8. We’re waiting for the wild damsons and bullaces here. The only greengages I could get my hands on were a terrible disappointment though, sour and cottonwoolly.

    1. The bullaces are nearly ready here though it always seems to take an age between almost and completely ripe. How disappointing about your greengages – sounds like the apricots I’m sometimes tempted to buy.

  9. what stunning photos. I am not sure if i’ll have plums on my new tree this year – this is only her second year in the garden; she is just coming into bud now – but the promise of rich dark purples plums for stewing and cooking is too much, and your photos remind me of that! I do so prefer to eat cooked plums than fresh plums.
    enjoy that gin …

  10. We’ve just had the best plum blossom I’ve ever seen so I’m hoping that it will equate to a fabulous harvest! Our greengage tree had a rest last year so perhaps this year we’ll be feasting on those lovely juicy fruits 🙂

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