22 July 2007

A year for fruit

The weather was cool and rainy all through May and June, and even into July. We still haven't had a stretch of really warm weather. The vegetable garden is a disaster zone, though it is just starting to look a little better now, since we've had a few sunny days.

There are big yellow flowers on the zucchini and summer squash plants (courgettes vertes et jaunes). There are some small green tomatoes now, and some green bell peppers too. The eggplants and green beans have blossoms — Walt actually picked a few haricots verts yesterday.

It's a great year for mirabelle plums in the Cher Valley.

While it's not a great year for the jardin potager, it looks like we are having a fantastic year for fruit. I blogged in June about the local cherries, with many pictures of the ones we picked on our property and on untended land nearby. We enjoyed cherry clafoutis and duck with cherry sauce, and I made several jars of confiture de cerises.

A few weeks ago, I picked a big batch of little red plums over in my neighbors' yard. They didn't mind, especially since 95% of the plums I gathered were ones I picked up off the ground. I hardly touched the tree. A couple of weeks later, my neighbors' brother-in-law came over from Noyers-sur-Cher, across the river where he lives, and picked a lot more plums. I saw him that day. And then the neighbors told us he made 15 jars of preserves with the plums he picked.

I can't tell if these are exactly the same variety as
the mirabelles pictured above, but they are good.


Now the little rosy-tinged yellow plums called mirabelles are ripening. For the first time since we came here — this is our fifth summer already — the plum trees out in our back yard are covered in fruit. This is also the first year we've had enough plump cherries from our own cherry tree to be able to do anything with them.

I don't know whether to attribute the sudden increase in the productivity of our fruit trees to the mild winter we had or to the great amount of rain that has fallen since May 1. Maybe it was just too dry for the trees to set fruit in 2003-06. Or for the fruit to plump up.

There is obviously a balance in nature. For three years, we had a sumptuous harvest of vegetables from the garden. This year, the garden is producing less, but the fruit harvest is exceptionally nice.

It looks like it's going to be a good year for blackberries too.

Whatever the cause, we picked and picked up about 2.5 kg (6 lbs.) of plums earlier this week in our own yard, and there are two trees on the untended land next to ours that are heavy with little yellow plums. I just went out and tasted a couple — they seem to be a slightly different variety from the mirabelles we have (they are rounder and yellower) and they aren't quite ripe yet. They're sweet enough to eat, but they will be better by mid-week.

I can wait, since I just picked another kilo or so off our own trees and the ground under them.

Pommes rouges...

The other fruits we are going to have this year, in abundance, are apples and blackberries. This is an "on" year for our biggest green apple tree, so there are literally thousands of apples on it. We will have to discard most of them because we just can't use them all. Another of our apple trees is covered in bright red apples, and we will try to use as many of those as possible.

...et beaucoup de pommes vertes

Out in the vineyard and along both the gravel and paved roads out back, there are numerous blackberry brambles. One summer, a few years a go, I picked some blackberries and we made a pie. This year, from the looks of things, there will be many more blackberries than ever before (since 2003, anyway). I foresee blackberry pies and blackberry jelly in August.

9 comments:

  1. We have a single apple tree that bears fruit we don't eat ourselves, mostly because it's in an awkward spot and hard to pick. The only apples we ate were the ones we could reach through our second floor window.

    For years the apples went to waste, until a couple of years ago we read about a foraging group that comes to pick your unwanted fruit and donate it to food programs. Maybe there's something like that in the area and you wouldn't need to discard so much?

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  2. hello shelli,

    I'll have to go ask at the mairie du village if there is any such program. Every garden here has several apple trees, and we are not even that close to Normandy! I guess cider would be a good use for all the apples, and that's what they do farther north.

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  3. I haven't eaten a decent blackberry in years. A lot of the time, they dry up before you get to them

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  4. Don't forget apple AND blackberry go very well together, in tarts, crumbles and pies.

    The apples could help bulk out a chutney if you have tomatoes to preserve at the end of the season; and you could half-cook them with a little lemon juice and then freeze them for use in the winter, perhaps?

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  5. I usually pick blackberries for cobblers this time of year, but we had none to pick because of our drought. Water must be a major key for setting abundant fruit on trees.

    My parents made a lot of applesauce for the winter and my dad made fried apple pies with it. Still they couldn't use all of their apples.

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  6. Those trees are just beautiful. Wow.

    We are having a good year for fruit here in the bay area. Our Santa Rosa plum tree did very well after two years of next-to-nothing.

    On the other hand, our lemon tree died...

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  7. Claude, if you come back to Saint-Aignan, I'll show you where you can pick some good blackberries.

    Autolycus, we make apple sauce and use it all winter to make an applesauce cake. And last year (or was it two years ago) I made several quarts of apple jelly.

    Evelyn, is that you? Fried apple pies sound good. Walt has made chaussons aux pommes in past years — same thing, I think, but baked in the oven. They are good.

    Chrissou, sorry to hear about the lemon tree but glad you got plums. I have to look up Santa Rosa plums and see what they are. What do you think mirabelles are in English? I put up 6 pints of plum jam this morning, and I'm doing 6 more tonight.

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  8. The ever-trustworthy Wikipedia says that the Latin name is Prunus domestica syriaca and http://tinyurl.com/3yljpl suggests that it's called in English Mirabella, Syrian plum (makes sense, given the variety name), or Yellow plum.

    I've seen yellow plums here, but I find them flavorless. I've never seen anything in a farmer's market called a Mirabelle. With all the Francophiles around here, I'm sure Mirabelles would be a big hit.

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  9. Please, read "An Ordinary Black Cat" available in www.catyourway.com You will find out something that you would never know otherwise. NEVER! Please, let me know... There is a small charge of £3.60, but it is worth it, trust me.

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