With the party winding down and most guests departing, we are returning to some of La Mothe’s more typical chores. The property is scattered with fruit trees–apples, pears, figs, and plums. The plums are at their peak, their branches weighed down with fruit, and every morning a fresh carpeting of purple has dropped to the earth. We spend a few hours every day collecting the fallen fruit, separating the bruised and insect eaten from the intact. More plums fall around us with thuds.
Bees swarm the fallen fruit, intoxicated with the liquid pulp that seeps from burst skins. The bees keep to the sunny patches, preferring the warmest plums. We approach from the shaded areas, reluctantly entering the bees’ domain. It is a delicate task to steal their fruit when they abandon it for a moment. As we collect the plums in our buckets, the bees concentrate on what remains until each fruit has four or five bees jostling for a bite. These we leave to them.
There are three types of plums here. The largest, Reine Claude (pictured at top), is light purple-red, about 2 inches tall, and good for eating as it is both sweet and meaty. The Prune is a bit smaller than the Reine Claude, and deep purple in color. Prune is the generic French term for plum, and this plum, while sweet and tasty, is about as plum-like as can be and doesn’t earn any special name. Finally the blushed-yellow Mirabelles, no larger than a shooting marble, are sweet as sugar even though firm, and have a more complex flavor that includes hints of ginger, but without any spice. The Mirabelles are never combined with the other two plums, as their special flavor and delicacy would be lost.
After gathering, the damaged plums are dumped into large plastic barrels to ferment and later be distilled into eau-de-vie, and the good ones are pitted and made into tarts, jams, and crumbles. Irresistible fresh plums we gobble up from start to finish.
A Reine Claude tart made by Vanessa.