Category Archives: Fruit

Plums


plums

If in doubt: never eat an unripe plum. My test for ripeness is to check for softness and to peel the skin. If the whole skin peels off effortlessly, then your plum is perfect. It must feel not too hard and not too squishy. Even if it seems just a tad on the hard side, leave it an extra day.

And what what do with all those gorgeous Dutch plums? Plums are the perfect companions for any sort of buttery cake or pastry, even better in a warm crumble with custard on the side or a clafoutis. Plums love hearty spices like cinnamon, vanilla, ginger, and cloves and find a best friend in toasted almonds or hazelnuts. In short, the perfect feel-good fruit to get you through the first chilly autumn days.

But my latest discovery for using plums is not sweet: from the 6 kilos that I bought from the orchard (what was I thinking..?) a big chunk went into making plum chutney and plum sauce. Stewed for 3 hours until almost jam-like, with spices, and tons of fresh ginger, the chutney is a party in your mouth: it’s sweet, sour, salty and spicy all at once. Perfect accompaniments for aged cheese or meat. And forget about the sickly sweet manufactured Chinese plum sauce: make your own. Perfect with Peking-style duck pancakes or roast pork belly. So who wants to come over for dinner?

 

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Blackberries

blackberries
I am always in two minds about the coming of blackberry season. On one hand, I look forward to picking the plentiful, plump, black berries by the side of the road especially for making jam. On the other hand, blackberries fruit at the very end of summer and that can mean only one thing: that winter is coming.

While picking blackberries, I find it is very handy to bring a tall person with you and luckily, we’re in the right country for that. The biggest, juiciest, and most perfect blackberries tend to hang from the top of the bush, highly out of reach for someone vertically challenged like myself. I love returning to our favourite picking spots or stumbling across blackberry brambles unexpectedly during a walk or cycle somewhere. During these times, we usually pack some containers just in case and expect that our outings will take twice as long as we intended.

Brambles like to grow along the side of the road, path or railway track, on the edges of parks and often in disused places. Watch out for traffic if picking near the road! Don’t wear anything that you’ll be afraid to get stained with blackberry juice or ripped up by the thorns that cover the bush. Your fingers and hands will likely be covered in scratches by the end of your harvest fest but the beautiful, dark-coloured jam will be more than worth it! Other yummy uses for blackberries include blackberry cheesecake, jam tartlets, blackberry wine, and blackberry crumble. They also freeze well – frozen berries are perfect to use in cakes and smoothies. It’s only the beginning of blackberry season so there’s plenty more to come. Happy picking!

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A Forest Full Blueberries

blueberries1There is no other word than PHENOMENAL to describe this year’s wild blueberry season in the Netherlands. Everywhere, the forest floor is literally a sea of blue, each shrub filled with clusters of fat, juicy blueberries dripping off each branch. No kidding (see all the dark blue dots in the photo?).

In my first post on wild blueberries, I wrote that they were notoriously hard to spot. Well I take that back: obviously I was in the wrong forest or I was too early. This second blueberry expedition brought me to blueberry heaven. Now I understood what the blueberry picker was made for (to comb the berries from the plant). If you can, head to the forest this week to pick your own. Blueberry seasons like this don’t come by very often anymore!

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And in case you’re stuck for ideas for what to make with all your blueberries, what about: blueberry jam, blueberry pie, blueberry crumble, blueberry muffins, blueberry cake, blueberry clafoutis, blueberry liquer, blueberry pancakes, blueberry cheesecake, blueberry ice cream…is that enough to get you out there picking?

(PS wash them very very well before eating or cook them)

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The Cherry Orchard

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Cherries are one of those fruits that are inseparable from summer: like with strawberries or watermelon, it feels totally wrong to eat fresh cherries at any other time of the year. I look forward to the Dutch cherry season like an impatient kid counting down to his or her birthday, or to be more precise, to the presents. For me, the plump, juicy, crunchy cherries that await are better than any shop-bought ‘cadeau.’

The Dutch cherry season lasts 5-6 weeks starting somewhere around mid July. Due to the long cold spell, they were a couple of weeks late, but it was more than worth the wait. The weather conditions this year – favourable to the fruit but not to us poor humans –  allowed the cherries to flower and fruit very well, and in copious amounts too!

For me, no cherry season is complete without a trip to the cherry orchard. Besides buying cherries for feasting, I usually buy a massive box for jam or preserving in port. A cherry orchard feels romanic and alluring: perhaps Chekhov’s play has something to do with this.

When cherry trees are fruiting in full, it’s a sight to behold: groups of shiny, black cherries hang in clusters along the branches over the whole tree. The abundance is overwhelming and it’s pretty hard at this stage to hold back and not just want to eat them all. Eating cherries straight off the tree is one of the biggest pleasures I can imagine. It can’t get any fresher, which perhaps explains the Dutch phrase ‘kers vers’ (cherry fresh). “Pick me, pick me!”, they’re all saying. And so I did. Six and a half kilos later, I left the orchard with my hands and mouth stained black from picking and eating the sweet cherries. I cycled away with the box strapped on the back of my bike (praying it wouldn’t fall off), dreaming about the delicious pots of jam that would soon follow….

Thanks to Vera and Dirk from Eerlijk & Heerlijk in Zuidoostbeemster for hosting me on their beautiful orchard!

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Redcurrants

Redcurrants are in the full glory right now. Get ’em before the birds do!
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