Guy Warner:

Plums are the un­sung he­roes of the fruit world

Cotswold Life - - NEWS - GUY WARNER

When was the last time you en­joyed a plum? I mean re­ally en­joyed a plum? I’m not talk­ing those rather dull, su­per­mar­ket ripenat-home va­ri­eties, I’m talk­ing chin-drib­blingly juicy with a flavour so sweet you can’t be­lieve it’s all nat­u­ral.

Well, be­lieve it or not, those plums are still around but you do have to sniff them out – from in­de­pen­dent re­tail­ers, farm­ers’ mar­kets, small pro­duc­ers or friendly neigh­bours who are weighed down by their gar­den crops.

I gen­uinely love plums, but they ab­so­lutely have to be lo­cal and fresh from the tree. That’s why plum sea­son at Warner’s Bud­gens is ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated with as much rev­er­ence as as­para­gus and straw­berry sea­son. Around the third week of Au­gust we’ll start to see fresh­lyp­icked plums, full of am­brosial prom­ise, ar­riv­ing from our lo­cal fruit farm in Winch­combe.

Martin Har­rell from Hayles Fruit Farm has been sup­ply­ing us with his plums (and lo­cal­ly­grown ap­ples and straw­ber­ries) for many years and they are al­ways a sell-out in our stores. There are favourites such as Vic­to­ria and Mar­jorie seedling, but to this day, I don’t think you can beat su­per­sweet green­gages, (yes, re­mem­ber those?) and let’s not for­get glo­ri­ous damsons, al­though frus­trat­ingly, most of the ones that grow in our gar­den end up con­sumed by the dog who seems to have rather a sweet tooth!

Over the year, Martin can pick up to three tonnes of plums in the short eight-week sea­son. They are care­fully grown to reach the per­fect size and man­aged to min­imise the need for in­sec­ti­cides. And while it may be a short sea­son, thanks to modern stor­age tech­niques, the crops can be stored and kept fresh for longer.

I’ve seen first-hand how hard Martin and his team works to pro­duce their crops for us and it’s no small task. All year round, they are at the mercy of the weather – the hor­ren­dous spring means plum num­bers are down on last year, but hope­fully sum­mer’s sunny spell means the plums we do have will be the sweet­est, juici­est ones yet.

But it’s not just the weather that makes it a tough time for plums. As more of us are con­di­tioned to shop in big su­per­mar­kets, tra­di­tional va­ri­eties are fast fall­ing out of favour. Th­ese larger su­per­mar­kets are sim­ply not geared up to deal with small pro­duc­ers, which means most of the pub­lic is miss­ing out on a crack­ing prod­uct.

If you thought you didn’t care for plums that much, I urge you to dig around lo­cally and try some of the fab fruits grow­ing in the Cotswolds. Don’t just rely on the iden­tikit fruit you find on the big su­per­mar­ket shelves – there’s a plum for every palate, if you know where to look.

Pick up a fresh plum at Warner’s Bud­gens stores in Broad­way, Winch­combe, More­ton-in-marsh and Bid­ford-on-avon, and at Hayles Fruit Farm, Winch­combe, hayles­fruit­farm. co.uk Lo­cally-owned com­pany Warner’s Bud­gens have six stores in the area – Bid­for­don-avon, Broad­way, More­tonin-marsh, Quedge­ley, Tewkes­bury and Winch­combe. More in­for­ma­tion at warn­ers­bud­gens.co.uk

ABOVE: Vic­to­ria plums

BE­LOW: Cus­tomer Heather Spragg and Martin Har­rel from Hayles Fruit Farm

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