Plums, greengages and damsons
I have a small Victoria plum tree in my garden in Suffolk, and I love eating them straight from the tree in late summer, giving them a faint squeeze to see which ones are fully ripe, then eating just a few each day for breakfast and lunch until they’re all gone.
There are several other varieties of home-grown plums, all suitable for cooking or eating raw when fully ripe.
Greengages, because of their colour, are deceptive – they can look unripe and forbidding but taste very sweet. I like to cook both greengages and plums in a compote of Marsala wine.
Damsons are my favourite members of the plum family. The true damson is small and oval, almost almond-shaped, with dark indigo-purple skin, covered in a soft bloom and bright-green, sharp-sour flesh that when cooked with sugar, produces darker, reddish-purple juice. The secret of the damson’s utter charm is that because it’s a sharp fruit its flavour is not killed by sugar, so damson jam remains perfectly tart and not over-sweet.
This is delicious served with cold meats or sausages and will keep indefinitely. Use bottles that have contained shop-bought ketchup or you can buy the old-fashioned type 'pop' bottles from good kitchen shops.
This wonderful summery compote is a great way to use up a glut of fruit if you grow your own or find some reduced in the shops. The joy of it is that you can use any fruit you like.
Predominantly fruit, this is a healthy summery dessert to serve to dieters who often feel they miss out on the pudding front. You can use any fruit combination you like - the lemon grass adds a subtle and intriguing element.
Make these a month before Christmas and you'll receive plenty of compliments when serving them with cheese and cold cuts. Or why not make up some batches as gifts for food-loving friends?
This recipe is a wonderful way to ring the changes from the ubiquitous plum crumble in late summer when plums are at their peak. Serve this with cream or ice cream for real indulgence.