My dream has always been to have a home with a garden full of fruit trees — a fruit garden, if you will (In German, obst means fruit and obstgarten, or fruit garden, means orchard). Ivan Doig, at a reading last week, made a comment that resonated with me. Doig writes a lot about Montana, where he grew up, but he lives in Seattle. “It’s not where you live that matters,” he said, “but where your imagination lives. Mine lives in Montana.”
My imagination lives in a fruit garden.
Scott McManus with greengage plum tree
But back to reality, it really helps to have friends with fruit trees — especially if those friends have a whole orchard full of fruit.
Scott and Maggie invited us to Cashmere to sample the greengage plums of fall. This was a trip that had been long postponed, as wildfires and thick smoke in the area last September had forced us to cancel our greengage trip.
These plums (not to be confused with the green Japanese plums) are very special and delicious — and rarely grown in the U.S. In France they are called Reine Claude. The tree is finicky and the fruit must be absolutely ripe–to the point of softness– to be truly enjoyed, so they are difficult to market.
A ripe greengage plum is golden inside
The ripe plums have a golden-honey flavor balanced with enough tartness to keep them from being cloying.
In this excellent article, fruit aficionado David Karp explains all about greengages, and I learned that the type Scott was growing, Reine-Claude de Bavay, is a “half-sister” of the original greengage plum, widely grown and respected in France.
Reine-Claude de Bavay plums
Of course they ripened nearly all at once, but we had the perfect solution. We had told Georgiana, the friendly clerk in our local pharmacy, that we were making a trip over the mountains for greengages and she nearly swooned.
“I love those,” she said. “We had a greengage tree when we lived in the country, and when we moved to town I had to leave that tree. It was the saddest thing.”
We brought Georgiana a bag of ripe greengage plums when we returned, and she was ecstatic. “Those were just wonderful,” she said when we saw her a couple days later. “They brought back so many good memories.”
It’s the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkos, a time to enjoy the wonderful fall fruits and vegetables. The last of the fall peaches are ripe — Scott and Maggie gave us some of those as well as pears and apples. We had a lovely bounty of fruit, even enough to share. And of course, the kitchen has been full of fruit flies. It’s all just part of the season.
Today, as I’m writing this, it is September 21, the feast of San Matteo. I know nothing about the feast or the saint, except for this excellent Italian saying (which I saw on this site on Italian language).
Per San Matteo, piangi
le ultime pesche che mangi
For San Matteo’s feast, you weep
For the last peaches you will eat