PLUMS FROM FROG HOLLOW FARM
We’re marking the Fourth of July with Santa Rosa plums from Al Courchesne’s Frog Hollow Farm, in northern California. Frog Hollow has been supplying the Bay Area with organic fruit for more than 20 years, and if you miss their crop of Santa Rosas, don’t despair—there are plenty more summer offerings to come.
Santa Rosa is what I think of when I think “plum.” It has full-on sweet-tart flavor, rich aroma, lush flesh … and a grand American history. The variety was bred in 1906 by the celebrated horticulturalist Luther Burbank (1849–1926) at his plant-research center. Named for its birthplace, the plum is arguably his crowning achievement.
The taut, thin skin of a perfectly ripe Santa Rosa pops when you bite into it, and it’s best if you’re leaning over the kitchen sink. I have this image of the poet William Carlos Williams doing so, whisking his tie out of the way at the last second, before turning bad behavior into art in “This is Just To Say”: “I have eaten / the plums / that were in / the icebox / and which / you were probably / saving / for breakfast. / Forgive me / they were delicious / so sweet / and so cold.”
What a scamp. Williams is hardly offering an apology, as Sean Cole points out on This American Life. This is also one of the most parodied poems around, he adds, and invites David Rakoff, Sarah Vowell, and others to join in the fun here.
The Williamses and their icebox aside, plums won’t continue to ripen if chilled. Keep them at room temperature (and out of direct sunlight) instead. “If you must refrigerate them,” reads the careful, can’t-miss note inside the Frog Hollow box, “store ripe fruit unwashed and allow to return to room temperature before eating.” Another tip from the legendary purveyor? Never cluster or stack stone fruits—that leads to uneven ripening or bruising. So spread out your bounty onto a platter instead of piling it into a bowl.
I’m dithering about what to do with our haul. A galette is always appealing, as is an upside-down cake. But I also really like putting ripe plums, cut into wedges, in a pan, sprinkling them with sugar, and sautéing them with a little ginger until they just begin to break down. They are so juicy that no butter is needed for cooking, and you can serve them warm or at room temperature. and embellished with crème fraîche. If I have any plums left, I’ll reach for the plum chutney recipe (below) from our friend Elaine Greenstein. It is fabulous with grilled pork or chicken, and summer isn’t summer without it.
Then again, we may just eat our plums out of hand, leaning over the kitchen sink.