They are in season. In our house (the one I’ve just moved to if you read the last blog) they have been appearing frequently in brown paper bags whose contents rapidly disappear. Quite fond of them myself, but the other half, she loves them. They are well nice cooked, as far as I remember. But chez nous they get eaten much too fast for any such preparation to be hoped for.
She knows her plums. She reckons Victoria Plums, the ones you most commonly find, are far from the best and recommends a list of other varieties – some of which she obtains and do indeed taste pretty good, if I get to have a sample before they are gone. Like so many fruit, supermarkets - with their general tendency towards enforcing standardisation and 52 week a year supply - tend to import them. My partner, however, is not alone in thinking that British is best.
All this set me wondering. Just how many varieties are there? An online search proved overwhelming. Some of the names alone are enough to make your mouth water. Coe’s Golden Drop, anyone? How about Belle de Louvain or Blue de Belgique (obviously British from skin to stone)? And oh, to try a Warwickshire Drooper or a Denniston’s Superb, a Golden Sphere or a Wallis’s Wonder.
Some of these names are redolent of history or legend, it seems: Monarch, Black Prince, The President, Guinevere, Avalon and Excaliber. Others the names of those who presumably bred them: Angelina Burdett, Edwards, Kirkes Blue, Reeves Seedling, Marjorie’s Seedling or the particularly evocative Sanctus Herbertus. Yet more imply richness and quality: Ruby, Opal, Denniston’s Superb, Early Prolific, Valour and Verity. Surely we can’t go wrong with any of these. A plum pilgimage across our land is called for. Just as soon as we… Oh. Hello reality.
It is, of course, a similar situation with apples. The story does not end with Coxes, Galas, Braeburns or Granny Smiths. Far, far from it. But I’ve already bandied one list of wonderful names. Go look for yourself. The danger is that whatever you find may just be in danger of being lost if we don’t seek out the richness of product that main suppliers deem un-economic. I’ve long been guilty of buying the crap stuff myself, simply out of convenience. Imports from New Zealand? What was I thinking? But my partner’s enthusiasms have re-kindled my interest. You can’t break the pattern every time you buy – if it’s the only shelf available and you’re hungry, you gotta eat. But try when you can. Keep variety (and locally produced variety at that) alive.
Now where can I find a nice Violetta, I wonder…