In 1905 California was experiencing a labor shortage. It is said that in an attempt to bring in his crop before it spoiled, plum grower Martin Seely paid to have 500 monkeys shipped from Panama to his fields in the Santa Clara Valley. He divided the primates into groups of 50 with one human overseer per group and set them to picking. The monkeys were very efficient workers- climbing trees with ease and picking the fruit quickly. Unfortunately, Mr. Seely did not see much return from that year’s crop. Area legend has it, that while the monkeys were eager pickers, they were also eager eaters and ate every one of the good plums produced that year. Today, California is still one of the largest producers of plums in the US and the world. The growers now have slightly stricter hiring procedures (little things like humans only) but one thing has stayed the same. The temptation to eat this delicious stone fruit remains strong no matter what your species.

While plums do make a delicious snack, I hope that my family is evolved enough to refrain from gobbling them down before I’ve had the chance to make a culinary masterpiece- or at least dessert. If you have success keeping some of your crop hidden from your little monkeys remember: Do not keep the plums in their box. If they are firm and unripe, leave them on the counter- but watch them closely. Once they are ripe (a slight give when pressed) put the fruit in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. They will stay good this way for a couple of days. The plums can then be frozen (remove pits, slice, place on foil-lined baking sheets in freezer, place fruit in freezer-safe bags when solid); canned; dried; or my personal favorite…cooked.

Eating well –  This site offers 9 healthy, plum recipes for sweet and savory dishes including shrimp and plumb kabobspork tenderloin with roasted plums and rosemary; and even a stone-fruit sparkling wine

Plum sauce is a classic ingredient in Asian cooking and this recipe from Canning Homemade is delicious.  Plum sauce is great as a glaze for chicken, pork, or duck. It can be used as the base for an Asian-inspired bar-b-q sauce when grilling ribs. Plum sauce can also be served as a dip for spring rolls and won-tons, or mixed with sesame oil and rice wine vinegar for an Asian-inspired salad dressing.

Of course, dessert is a favorite way to use up this delicious fruit. My family loves cobbler and for our gluten-free version this is my go-to recipe. It works well with any fruit including cherry, peach, apple, and plum. I have made this recipe using Annalise Roberts’ gluten free sweet rice blend that I mix myself, and Pamela’s pre-mixed blend. The Pamela’s is nice as it lends an almond flavor that compliments the plums well, but really any GF mix will work. The first time I made the recipe I followed the directions exactly but found that it had too much butter for my taste. Now, I use only half of the butter that she calls for- it turns out great. (She calls it a crumble but in my kitchen this is a cobbler- my definition of crumble requires oats and brown sugar)
Their magnificent color, sweet and tangy flavors, and high nutritional values make this summer fruit a treat to “go ape” over (insert eye roll here). So- swing into the kitchen and monkey around with some fun, plummy recipes. Happy Cooking!

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