Plum Heart

This summer has been all about processing large quantities of raw materials. This past weekend William and I went plum picking. Near our friend Jennifer’s house in Oakland, there’s an elephant heart plum tree filled with fruit. EHs aren’t good eating out of hand plums, so at first I was not psyched. I dehydrated a batch and they were terrible–weirdly rubbery. On a fluke, I cooked a few down, and suddenly had the best fruit in the world in my hands. Two buckets worth. First I stewed about 30 quart jars. In their own juice, they reduce down to a mindblowingly good sweet-tart sauce the color of claret. Then I made a plum coffeecake–oh lordy, sweet dough meets tart, melting plum. Then I finished off the buckets by making about 24 pint jars of plum jam. My thumb hurts from pulling pits, and my fingers are very stained (just like my sister’s blackberried digits).

If you’ve got an extra moment, here’s a profile I wrote for, published online today:

5 responses to “Plum Heart

  1. hi there–I just found your blog through your recent Salon article and have been enjoying reading all the archives!

    I was wondering if that plum tree is public (i.e. anyone can pick from it) and if so, if you wouldn’t mind revealing where it is in Oakland so that I can pick a few and sample some of the loveliness of which you write. Sorry if this sounds weird–I just am obsessed with trying all the fruits around the neighborhood (I’ve had this dream for a while of mapping all the fruit trees, herbs, and wild vegetables in Oakland not on private land). If you don’t mind sharing the location, my email is fooburd [at] yahoo.

  2. lara, you should check out i know it’s in la, but it’s pretty cool nonetheless. i heard a few months ago that there is a similar map for berkeley and oakland, but i can’t remember where it is. i bet you could find it with a bit of googling.

  3. thanks so much samin! that site is so cool–exactly what i was thinking of. i’ll look for something similar around here.

  4. Novella Carpenter

    hi lara;
    glad samin pointed you to a good resource. there used to be a group in oakland called amity works that did a similar thing. they were a storefront for gleaners. it ruled. but then they didn’t get another grant and it was gone after two years. i wonder if they did a map?
    ok–but my confession is the plums actually aren’t on public land. it’s accessible only by standing on a car and climbing onto the roof of a little shed. the house looks semi-abandoned, but i can’t be sure. my policy on fruit gleaning is: if there’s fruit on the ground, or fruit rotting, it’s up for grabs. in fact (rationalizing), i’m helping by keeping rodents away from rotting food. better yet is to knock on the door and ask.
    if you’d like to check it out (i’m pretty sure we got most of the fruit, tho), it’s in the alley running parallel to 63rd and vallejo. look for the enormous pear tree, plum tree is next to it.
    we should start a gleaners blog for the beast!

  5. thanks novella! i’ll check it out.

    i have a similar policy on fruit.

    oooh–a gleaners blog would be amazing!

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