Things will get ‘plum’ tasty this weekend

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 6, 2013

My husband’s plum tree is really producing this year. About time! They are really nice to have as a treat after lunch or dinner. We have so many we eat them for breakfast too.

Plums once grew wild in most of the world, including the South. Most of these wild plums were small, tart, and painfully astringent, so they were better suited for wine and brandy making than for eating. Charleston resident Henry Laurens is credited with introducing better-tasting old world plums from the south of France to the colonies around 1755, but it’s unclear whether he personally undertook the effort or merely paid for it.

The plums we grow and eat today in the South and in the United States come from a mixture of European, Asian and wild American rootstock. Small, firm plums are particularly good for making preserves. Large, plump, juicy plums can be enjoyed raw or cooked. Wild American plums are almost always cooked. A delicious plum is the beach plum and many plum purists believe it is the best plum that grows on the East coast. Beach plums thrive in the sandy dunes and salty air. They grow in tight thickets, which were once used as hedges and fences. The plants sent out such a profusion of sturdy shoots that it was often easier and faster to grow an erosion resistant fence than to build one.

Our plum tree is a Santa Rosa Plum developed by Luther Burbank in Santa Rosa, Calif. We once visited Burbank’s home and garden there when our son worked in Santa Rosa, which is in Sonoma County, just north of San Francisco.

I decided to use all my extra plums in a salad and a dessert. I have to do coffee hour this Sunday and thought everyone would enjoy a plum cake.

These recipes are taken from The New Southern Garden by Sheri Castle.


Plum, Peach and

Tomato Salad

Makes 4 servings

4 plums, pitted and cut into thin wedges

2 large peaches, peeled, pitted, and cut into thin wedges

2 medium tomatoes, peeled if necessary, cored, and cut into thin wedges

1 small red onion, halved lengthwise and cut into thin strips

1 to 2 jalapeño or Serrano chilies, finely chopped (remove the seeds and membranes to reduce the heat

Finely grated zest of 1 lime

Juice of 2 limes (about 1/3 cup)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

¼ cup lightly packed cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

Stir together all the ingredients except the cilantro in a large bowl. Cover and let sit at room temperature for one hour to give the flavors time to come together, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the cilantro and check seasoning just before serving.


Plum Cake

This is a simple and pretty spice cake with little plums peeking up through the batter. Any kind of plum will work, but slightly under-ripe plums hold their shape when baked, and dark plums look pretty.

Serves 8

Vegetable oil spray

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

6 to 8 small plums, halved and pitted (about 1 pound)

Lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mist the inside of a 9-inch spring form pan with the spray.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, ginger and nutmeg in a medium bowl.

Beat the butter and ¾ cup of the sugar until light and fluffy in a large bowl with an electric mixer set to high, about three minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture and beat on low only until it disappears into the batter. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Arrange the plums cut-side down over the batter. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar over the top.

Bake until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, topped with a dollop of whipped cream.