Lunchbreak forager– Plums
damsons on a plum tree
Juicy Victoria plums, or wild sweet purple damsons and greengages; plums have to be up there as one the greatest foraged foods (and plum wine is a great wine too). A heavy branch of damson hangs over my back lane and the plums are rich for the picking, although in doing so I am breaking the law here in the UK. UK law states that fruit on an overhanging branch (from a tree, not a bush or shrub) is the property of the land owner. Apparently, you should offer the fruit back to the owner. But this is just fruit growing in gardens, what of the law of the land with regards foraging on other land both here and stateside?
UK plum law and hedgerow foraging
I once had a letter from an angry landowner who suggested by talking about foraging I was advocating stealing. The law on hedgerow picking suggests that anyone can pick as long as it is not for commercial gain. That is not to say that you shouldn’t be courteous, don’t over pick one area (which also leaves some for the birds) and stay on public footpaths/areas. Most landowners are happy to have you pick but like apples you should always be wary of the odd crabby one!
Foraging plums and other fruit in the USA
There are some American state laws that prohibit foraging in certain areas so check before foraging in municipal parks and other state owned areas. Mind you Steve Brill was arrested in Central Park before being employed by them, it was enough to be the making of him. Also, if you can it is best practice to always ask permission before foraging on someone’s land.
What to do with your plums – Quick Plum recipes
If you have managed to outwit a judge and have gotten away with a big haul of plums then you are going to want do something with them on your lunch break. The obvious choice would be just to stuff your face there and then but if you have so many you may want to try out drying them, making microwave plum jam or even sugared plums.
Microwave plum Jam
250g Pitted Plums
Wash the plums, if you haven’t already pitted them then get someone else in the office to do it with the promise of jam, it’s a boring task! The easiest way of doing so is to cut them in half and pull out the pip. Chop up into quarters and squeeze the lemon juice over them in a microwave proof bowl. Microwave on full power for 5 mins until the plums start to soften.
Stir in the sugar and microwave for 20 mins again on full power, checking every 5 minutes or so to ensure they are not getting totally nuked. You could then worry about the setting point like most English people are obsessed by, but this is microwave jam for God’s sake – chill out a little!
Leave to stand for 5 mins and then stick into one large or two smaller sterilised jars*. You could then make some microwave porridge and add it to that, yum! Or even, as the Russians do, try adding a spoonful to hot water and having it as a drink.
* Jars can be sterilized using homebrew sterilizing solution or by putting in an oven, on low, for 20 mins.
This recipe happens to be raw and vegan but don’t let that put you off as they are delicious. Actually, many raw vegan cakes and sweets are pretty delicious. Not that it’s a diet that particularly attracts me! Might be a bit tricky to dry the plums you your lunch break as it takes some time (see below sugar plum recipe for drying instructions). So really this is a lunch break recipe with some home work.
200g dried plums
200g dried figs
50g brown sugar
1 crushed star anise
Quarter of a tsp caraway seeds
Quarter of a tsp fennel seeds
Quarter of golden syrup
200g caster sugar
Chop up the fruit and almonds, if you have access to a blender then this job will be infinitely quicker. Combine the fruit & nut mixture and everything but the caster sugar. Roll into balls the size of bulls testicles and roll in the sugar.
Invite your workmates to get their laughing gear (mouths) around your balls.
Dried plums are very morish and great to get your gums around; they can be hidden away and snacked on throughout the day. What’s more they will keep for a long time and are pretty healthy to boot.
Once you have picked the plums then put them on a baking sheet and dry at 80°c/175°f for 12 hours, prick (the plums, I’m not being abusive), and put them back in the oven for another 12 hours. Bigger plums may need a further few hours but you should monitor them carefully to ensure they don’t turn to dust.