Who needs store bought when you can pick them for free? It’s a marvel really.
These wild plums can be found peppering hillsides, gardens and parks in the San Francisco Bay Area. They’re abundant and generally overlooked. There’s so much fruit for the taking and most of it is left to the birds or falls uneaten, virtually unnoticed.
It’s true, they’re equally as tart as they are sweet and one can eat only so many in one sitting, but they make excellent jam, chutney and sorbet — which always tastes better when made with fruit you’ve picked yourself. There’s something thrilling about gathering fruit or greens from your backyard or neighborhood, eating some on the spot and taking the rest home to be added to a recipe.
In truth, these particular plums are feral — wild, but escaped from cultivated landscapes — and not native to California but to China. Though we call them Asian or Japanese Plums because they came to the states with the Japanese in the late 1800’s.
There are several varieties to choose from with variation due to open pollination. The dominate varieties are Prunus salicina, P. mume and P. cerasifera (including the purple leaf variety). You’ll find them all, here and there and ripe for the picking in May, June and into July.
If food growing on trees were a new discovery, it would be called a miracle.
My first go-to with plums is sorbet. It’s the perfect mix of flavors, made savory because of the blend of tart and sweet. So that’s what’s on the menu and what doesn’t go into the first batch is prepped and stored in the freezer for the next round.
Wild Plum Sorbet
What You Need:
- Containers or pockets for fresh picked fruit (transportation home)
- 1 cherry pitter
- 2 1/2 cups pitted plums
- 1/4 to 1/3 cups sugar
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp Grand Marnier (optional)
- Ice-cream maker
What You Do:
- Wash and pit the plums using a cherry pitter. This tool is essential, making an impossible job possible, because the fruit adheres to the seed.
- Using a blender, puree the plums, sugar and lemon juice until smooth. You can strain off the skin if you like, but I prefer to use the whole fruit. It’s what gives it character.
- If you’re using Grand Marnier, add it now, right before you go to churn it in your ice-cream machine. The Grand Marnier adds a small bit of flavor and keeps the sorbet from becoming icy when storing it in the fridge, which isn’t an issue if you plan to eat it right away.
- Churn for about 25 to 30 minutes or according to the ice-cream machine instructions. Don’t be tempted to stop half-way, it may look ready but the extra time ensures consistency and your sorbet will hold up better when churned longer.
- Serve immediately.
- Garnish with Lemon Verbena or another herb on-hand.