Liz and I took Doughnut blackberrying the other day. We snuck down the private lane behind the posh houses because Liz had spotted a fig tree on an earlier mission and reckoned they were ours for the taking. She has very few scruples when it comes to scrumping does Liz. Doughnut of course – all legs and Bambi eyes – is the picture of innocence and provided the perfect cover. Butter literally wouldn’t melt. We know this because the only way we can get his arthritis painkillers down him is to smother them with butter, wrap them in ham and drop them on to the floor like a carelessly dropped canapé. Everyone likes a windfall.
So there we were, embracing the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, picking blackberries, collecting fallen apples, and weighing up the morals of reaching over a wall to nab some ripe pears. We even found some grapes and quinces in the hedge. The figs weren’t ripe after all, which saved us from another moral dilemma, so we traipsed back home, our pockets full of plundered fruit, only to discover that the garden was practically knee high in fallen plums.
The grass is always greener, but I couldn’t leave them to go to waste. Half an hour later the kitchen counter was overflowing with bowls of plums. The only sensible thing to do was to make jam, but my heart wasn’t in it.
I love them as they are, all plump, cool and smooth like little purple Fabergé eggs. I want fresh, juicy plums now, not jam tomorrow. I’ve given away as many as I can but I can’t hold back time, and too many of them are turning all mushy and yeasty as I speak. If I don’t do something soon they will all go to rack and ruin and I’ll have squandered the harvest from our single Victoria plum tree – bought and brought home on the bus when Cleo was about a week old and dug up and transplanted here when we moved almost 13 years ago.
To make matters worse two surviving pots of jam from two years ago are still sitting in the cupboard, looking at me reproachfully every breakfast time as we reject them time and time again for fancy store-bought raspberry conserve, or even strawberry value jam at 15p a jar. What’s the point, I thought, as I finally dug out the chopping board and the one good sharp knife, of doing all this work when I might never get to enjoy the, um, fruit of my labours?
Should I just gorge on as much as I could now and not worry about saving any for the months and years ahead? As I muttered and plotted my friend Jill popped round from next door, thrilled at the sight of the remaining windfalls and hoovering them up into her jumper like a younger glamorous Mrs Tiggywinkle. Now Jill is as green as I am pink – she cycles to work, she grows veg on her allotment and her garden is a fairyland of tinkling streams, ferns, frogs and granny’s bonnets.
Her enthusiasm was infectious, but I still couldn’t see the point of jar after jar of plum jam that may never see the light of day. What do you do with them all, I whinged, feeling as grumpy and guilty as the feckless grasshopper in the children’s fable whose summer idleness is interrupted by the industrious ant, frantically shoring up supplies for the winter ahead. “Oh just simmer them up with a bit of sugar and pop it in the freezer – it’s lovely with yoghurt and stops porridge from being so boring. I’ve done the same with the raspberries from the allotment.”
Raspberries? Now you’re talking. “I’ll bring some round – we can swap,” said Jill, arms full of plums like a modern day (and skinny) Ma Larkin.
Aha – now I know what they mean by investing in mutual funds – don’t put all your plums, even if they do look like Fabergé eggs, in one basket – diversification is key, especially in a growing market.
Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn