Taking a page out of Scotchheather’s blog, I started harvesting my Shiro plums in their green stage, to make pickles out of them.
Many of them spotted the “C” marking near the top, a tell-tale sign that they are infected by the plum curculio. I only found that out after an exhaustive research. And just a couple of weeks ago, I finally came face to face with the little scoundrel.
Tiny little thing, smaller than a ladybug. I put it in a bowl, covered it with plastic wrap, poked two holes for air, then left it to photograph later. Of course it escaped. So, I have no picture and no evidence. But take my word, it’s the curculio alright that’s been ravaging my plums.
The last few years, I didn’t get a single ripe fruit off the tree. I didn’t know what I was dealing with, so I didn’t come up with the right course of action. At first I thought I had pollination problem, since they say Japanese plums need two different varieties for proper pollination. And I only had one.
Last Fall, since I found out about the curculio, I started picking up every single fruit that littered the ground, and dispose of them. I see a difference this year. Some fruits on the tree are actually unblemished, because I have greatly reduced the population of the pest beetles.
I’m not sure what I’ve learned about the “two varieties for proper pollination” credo, on the other hand, from this experience. Seems rather untrue that you can’t have fruits without a different variety growing nearby.
My one and only plum tree, soon to be engulfed by the hydrangeas. There’s a blackberry plant somewhere in there, too.
A lot of the fruits are still falling this year, and I’m still disposing bagfuls of them, but several were salvageable. Those still hanging but with the marking will eventually fall and rot as well. So they were picked, and along with the salvaged ones, went into the pickles.
First, I cut off all the bad parts, then slice them in half to make sure there’s no larvae inside. I didn’t see any, but it’s better to be safe. Then it was a simple matter of putting them into a jar, and pouring pickle juice over them. I’m pretty sure everybody has his or her own favorite pickle juice recipe, so I won’t bother giving one.
Looking at all those green plums, I decided to eat one dipped in salt, the way janarek is eaten. You’ll see what the fuss is all about, if you like that kind of thing. Sour and salty and crunchy. I happen to like that sort of thing, so I was sold. I will have to look for the real janarek one of these days.
While crunching away at the salted plums, my mind immediately went to green mangoes. Although the plums were not as sour as green mangoes, I immediately saw how they could potentially be made into sambal, ala green mango sambal, a popular Indonesian condiment. Sabo was dispatched instantly, to collect more green plums, for the sambal.
1 cup sliced green plums (or green mangoes)
1 red bell pepper
1 plum tomato
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp olive or canola oil
salt & pepper
4 Thai or bird’s eye chilies, left whole (so they can be fished out in case someone can’t tolerate the heat)
Coarsely chop bell pepper, tomato, shallots and garlic. Put into a food processor, add oil, and grind to a desired consistency. Some like their sambal chunky, some like smooth. Or try to please everyone and have it in between, smooth with a few chunks.
Sauté the sambal paste, along with the plums and whole chili peppers, until the juices have evaporated, so that it looks more like a thick spaghetti sauce. Serve with lime wedges.
4 fish fillets (I used 2 mahi-mahi and 2 salmon fillets)
4 tbsp green plum sambal
1 inch slice of fresh ginger root
1 inch slice of frozen galangal root (find this in Asian markets)
1 tbsp chopped lemon grass
2 tbsp chopped shallots
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp olive or canola oil
Salt & pepper
Lemon basil or makrut lime leaves (optional)
Banana leaves for wrapping (or substitute with aluminum foil)
1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Grind ginger, galangal, lemon grass, shallots, garlic, and oil in a food processor, until a paste is formed.
3. Mix in the sambal, turmeric powder, salt & pepper.
4. Smear the paste all over the fish fillets.
5. Place on at least 2 layers of banana leaves. You can add chopped tomatoes and more green plums on top of the fish. If you have lemon basil, you can add that too. It would give the fish a wonderful aroma. I didn’t have any, but luckily I had frozen Kaffir lime leaves, so I added them on top of the fish.
6. Wrap fish in banana leaves or foil.
7. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 30 min. You can also grill this on charcoal. In fact, that’s how this dish is traditionally cooked in Indonesia.
Green plums have now become a great addition to my kitchen, with multiple uses. This doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to picking some ripe Shiro plums, however. This year might be the year I get to do it. Look at all these promises on the tree. Not very many, but as always “beggars can’t be choosers” and “some are better than none.”