Stone crazy

The Northern Advocate - - Bite - Jan Bil­ton

Yum! It is the sea­son of the plum. And our lo­cal trees are laden with tempt­ing red fruits. How­ever, I’ll have to wait a lit­tle longer for my favourite green­gage plums.

There is much con­tro­versy re­gard­ing the ori­gin of the plum. Some botanists claim it is na­tive to China then be­came pop­u­lar in Ja­pan. But the plum from which our most com­mon va­ri­eties orig­i­nated is Euro­pean.

Peaches had some­thing of a cult fol­low­ing in China — its orig­i­nal habi­tat — where for po­ets, sculp­tors and pain­ters it was a sym­bol of im­mor­tal­ity. This de­spite the fact that it grows on a short-lived tree.

The peach is of­ten as­so­ci­ated with ice­cream be­cause when the great Aus­tralian opera singer Dame Nel­lie Melba gave a party at the Lon­don Savoy, Chef Es­coffier cre­ated the fa­mous Peˆ che Melba in her hon­our — a swan carved of ice set in the cen­tre of poached peaches on a base of vanilla ice­cream.

The apri­cot also orig­i­nated in China but be­came es­tab­lished in Iran and Iraq where it is of­ten served with lamb. But there’s noth­ing bet­ter than a ripe apri­cot straight from the tree.

Un­for­tu­nately, most stone fruit of­fered by fruiter­ers and su­per­mar­kets are picked slightly green to pre­vent bruis­ing while trav­el­ling. Ripen them at room tem­per­a­ture, then re­frig­er­ate.

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