Sunday, 4 September 2011

Mirabelles and decadence


mirabelles, the tart orange plums like incandescent bulbs strung in forest green leaves
                                                                        From The Lantern

Late summer in Provence, and the garden orchards are full of plums. The mirabelles - smaller than they look in these - have a very distinct sweet-sour taste. When you cook with them they suck in more sugar than you ever intended and still never lose their tartness. You can pluck them off the tree and eat, and the first one is delicious and unusual, but somehow you don't want another - not right away, anyway.

They are beginning to wrinkle on the branch, testament both to glorious plenty, and their status as an acquired taste. Actually, mirabelles are fantastic with cheese, but we've had a brake on too much cheese and red wine this year, as it's just too easy to carry on eating and drinking long past reason!



The plums we grab in passing, and then go back for more, are the greengages. These are both crisp and sweet, and rarely blemished or invaded by insects. What bliss, when you feel a bit peckish, to wander down to the terrace with the old fruit trees and pick a few handfuls - all organic, of course, as the gardening chez nous so far consists only of cutting back when we can't see out.



Earlier in the summer are the superb wild plums: pink outside, peach inside. Like the greengages, they are beautifully crisp but sweet. I can't understand why our local friends dismiss them with a flap of the hand as 'les sauvages', wild fruit one step up from weeds. These are the ones I like best, especially the fruit from the trees no bigger than saplings that grow from a pile of stones.



The second year we were here, before the land was cleared to drain a boggy area, I was picking the plums here with an old friend, filling a huge bowl together as we pushed our way deeper into a messy clump of trees, when we found the remains of an old wooden cart that must once have been used on the farm.

Wherever you are here, there's evidence of what has gone before. For so many years, poor farming families and their tenants lived in places like this. Life was hard, but rich in natural produce. Now, many of these properties are owned by wealthy incomers, who are used to buying their food from supermarkets - food often sourced from vast distances - and it seems decadent to be able to reach out and take a  plum straight from the bough. And know that what is really decadent is the sea of plenty that will have to be left for the birds and the squirrel-like loir and the insects, whereas in years gone by it would all have been carefully preserved to last through the coming harsh winter.
  

14 comments:

Richard Moisan said...

Les prunes, un fruit magique. On peut le cueillir et le déguster sur place, mais il y a tellement de recettes dans lesquelles les prunes figurent.
Hmmm, à goûter sans modération!

My SINFONIA said...

Too often i leave my fruits on the trees to rot away or feed the birds. Too wasteful. But preserving them is so much work!

Pet said...

I have never had them with cheese and wine. I must try it, it sound like a perfect excuse :-)

autumnmiss said...

how wonderful to have such gorgeous fruit trees to hand. I have to ask though, what is a Lior?

James Kiester said...

Personally, I don't think there's such a thing as TOO MUCH good cheese & wine. :-)

vicki archer said...

I am always amazed at the bounty of fruits in Provence....Your's look fantastic Deborah....xv
PS Enjoying your book....thank you to your publishers for that....xv

autumnmiss said...

Hi Deborah, Thanks for visiting and for answering my query, its funny but just after i asked i began reading the very chapter in The Lantern that mentions Liors, hows that for coincidence. I am loving the book but my other half has been away all week and i didnt want to read the more ghostly bits whilst being on my own (how sad is that?)
Have just googled them and they look so cute, like a large field mouse, what a shame they do damage.
Gill x

Elizabeth Young said...

The fruit and flowers surrounding your home never cease to amaze me; what an absolutely wonderful place to write! Have you started your next novel yet?

BookGeek said...

It is kind of strange to think that many things that we think are luxurious or quaint - like owning an orchard, or milking your own cow - was commonplace so long ago. Funny how times change. You are too right. By the way, I just got your book in the mail and cannot wait to read it!

aguja said...

You capture the essence so beautifully. I feel as if I am there, discovering and savouring all with you. I love it when past and present intertwine. Although the past was not always good, there is something lost to us today. When it is possible to enter through a crack, it is a privilege to be able to contemplate lives from long ago.

Thank you for this post and for the delicious fruit amongst the dapple of the leaves.

I am off to Ireland for a week and there is always much of the past to recall, there.

Forest Dream Weaver said...

Lovely photos and text Deborah.
Thank you!

Lisa Erin said...

Lovely post, as always. Finding remembrances of days past is a fascinating thing. It can sometimes put things into a perspective that makes one wish they could be transported back to simpler times.

Angela Bell said...

The liquer is really wonderful!

vanessafrance said...

We have too many plums and don't make jam because we don't eat it. I must try them with cheese. We do give them to our farmer neighbours who make vieille prune and then give us a bottle the following year. Since we don't drink that either, we have bottles of the stuff secreted away. Lovely photos, Deborah.

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