Saturday, August 15, 2015

The fruits of our labors, part 2

This spring, our two-year old plum trees bloomed for the first time. We kept an eager eye on them throughout the spring and summer, watching the tiny balls in the middle of each blossom slowly grow to about an inch and a half in diameter. We kept thinking this couldn't be their final size, because the plums you see in the store tend to be at least two inches across, but apparently ours are either a smaller variety or just smaller because the trees are younger, because once they reached an inch to an inch and a half across, they gradually started to change color. Unfortunately, they also gradually started to drop off the trees before they'd fully ripened. I don't think we got a single plum off the Mount Royal tree, and we managed to harvest only one rosy-hued Opal plum before losing the rest.

So what you see here in this bowl is pretty much our entire plum harvest: about seven Golden Gage plums, each barely bigger than a large cherry. However, small as they were, they were still very tasty. Brian, not normally a great lover of plums, bit into the first one he picked and commented, "Oh, wow," so then I had to try one, and I found it sweet and juicy with just a hint of tartness. But sadly, each one was little more than a mouthful, so they were gone all too soon. We managed to harvest one more, and we had three others still on the tree waiting to ripen—but apparently, in the last two days, they went from being too green to pick to falling off and rotting on the ground. So that's the end of our plums for this year. Still, for a first harvest, it wasn't too bad, and we can hope that as the trees grow bigger, they'll yield more—and possibly larger—edible fruits.

Fortunately, our other fruit-bearing plants have been much more productive. We've already harvested eight cups of cherries, and that was only from four of our five bushes; the little Jan bush in the middle of the row was later to ripen than the others, so its fruit was still green two weeks ago. But it's now ripening nicely and should be ready to pick in the next week, so we probably can probably get another cup or so there. And as you can see above, the raspberries have started to produce as well. True to the pattern they established in their first year, they've been giving us about a handful at a time for the past few weeks, and by yesterday, we were finding so many ripe ones that we couldn't hold them all in our hands and had to use my hat as a receptacle. (I thought A Hat Full of Raspberries sounded like a Newberry-award-winning children's book, but Brian believed it would be more appropriate to use Raspberry Sun Hat as the name of an alternative band, along the lines of Strawberry Alarm Clock.)

As you may or may not be able to judge from the size of the hat, we got a good half-pint of raspberries from just this one picking. As it happened, we'd just returned from a trip to the local farmers' market at the time, and Brian noted that a comparable volume of organic blackberries would have cost us five bucks—so the raspberries are definitely earning their keep. And moreover, there's lots more where those came from; there are lots more berries on the canes, ranging from barely big enough to see to almost ripe enough to pick. So by September, we should be bringing in a truly bountiful crop—possibly even enough to "put up" some preserves for the winter.

All in all, I think our fruit crops are justifying the effort we put into planting them over that one long, dirty, chilly March weekend two years ago. The raspberry canes are yielding a good yearly crop already, and the cherry bushes, while still small, are producing enough for a few good desserts each year. And the plums, even if they're not very productive yet, at least offer a promise of tasty fruit for the future. Plus, at the rate they're growing, they may even be able to provide some nice summertime shade in a few years.
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