Across the street from us, Betty has an embarrassment of riches in her backyard. I didn’t know about this delicious problem until she called me last week, asking if I would do her a favor and pick myself a bagful of plums from her trees. Naturally, I agreed. It was the least I could do for a kind neighbor, right? Seriously, though, she had oodles of fruit—far more than she could even think about, let alone pick and eat.
After coming home with our bag of plums, Rosalie and I sat down in the backyard to have a taste. Instantly I wished I’d picked three bags. If only I could reach my hand through the screen right now and give you one of these plums, because they are the best I have ever tasted. How is this? They look like many other Italian plums I’ve eaten before, and yet these in particular seem especially perfect. Was it knowing that this fruit came from a tree planted almost 50 years ago by Betty’s husband Andy, a vigorous, green-thumbed man who was deeply in love with her? Did the knowledge that he passed away three years ago add a unique poignancy and complexity to the flavor?
I’m not completely sure. All I really know is the experience of that first—and second—and eighth—taste. The teeth’s first contact with the violet skin brings a breeze of spring blossoms to your mouth. Quickly behind it bursts a bright, sweet, almost vanilla-creamy intensity. Then the wild tartness takes over, commanding your attention for a moment. Finally it subsides slightly, relinquishing room for that first floral sweet again. The only way to make sense of this impossibly perfect experience is to try another, then another, keeping the floral-sweet-tart-floral sequence spiraling forth. It’s good that these fruits are small; this way you can enjoy the chain of flavors several times before running out of room, or even worse, running out of plums.
No recipe today. My hope is that someone will offer you—and me—Italian plums sometime this week, ideally from a tree planted with love.