When we bought the house where we live four years ago, we were told that an odd tree in the northwest corner of the backyard was a cherry tree. Since what we know about trees could fit into a space about the size of a cherry pit, who were we to dispute this knowledge? plum1.jpg

I say “odd” because the smallish tree, which seemed quite old — I like to call it ancient — had grown in two parts, one of which had fallen at some perhaps unknown time (certainly unknown to us), so that one part stood upright, about 12 feet tall, and the other stretched along the ground. Both divisions of the tree leafed out profusely in the spring, but we saw neither blossoms nor cherries. The tree, we thought, was just too old for that sort of thing.

Then late last year, after an overnight thunder storm, we came out in the morning and found that the upright portion of the tree had fallen, crashing right down to the ground in the opposite direction of the original fallen trunk. Not just fallen, but died; it produced no leaves in the spring, and its twigs and branches turned brittle. The surviving part of the tree, however, thrived, flourishing with dark green leaves, sending out shoots and suckers and new branches that reached for the sky almost gleefully. Not meaning to anthropormorphize too much here, but it seemed as if the surviving part of the tree was relieved to throw off the shackle of its former, weaker, partner and throw itself into the neglected business of being a real tree.

So. A few days ago, I was in the backyard and I noticed a little reddish-pinkish ball lying in the grass near the tree. “Say what?” I thought. I picked up the little ball and saw that it was a plum. I took in the house and showed it to LL, saying, “Look, it’s a little plum. Where the hell did that come from?” I know, readers, you’re way ahead of me here, but I’m slow about these things. Next, one of the puppies we’re fostering — we have five permanent dogs, and we’re keeping two loaners, golden retriever brothers, while a rescue group finds homes for them –came trotting happily up to the porch with, guess what, a plum in its mouth. And then we noticing that the pups, Deke and Dandy, were hanging out under the low branches of the tree, sticking their snouts up there and nuzzling around.

Finally, I go have a look. And, indeed, the tree is filled, I mean filled, with little plums in various states of ripeness and readiness, from cream-colored to pale green and yellow to mauve and pink and red, glowing like mysterious round jewels in the dark green leaves and shadowed branches.

The plums are tasty, quite juicy, but with a tart, almost bitter finish.

Last night, LL seared some fresh steelhead salmon (from Costco) and made a sauce using a handful of chopped plums, onion and garlic and, well, you know, other stuff. She added a bit of brown sugar to temper the tartness of the plums, but the sauce was still pretty frisky.

With it we drank a bottle of the Markus Molitor Riesling 2004, from Germany’s Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region, an irresistibly delicious and authentic riesling that at almost four years old is so fresh and crisp and fruity and spicy and rivetingly mineral-like that it could have been made yesterday. Excellent, and definitely Worth a Search. About $16.
Imported by Schmitt Sohne Inc., Millersville, Md.