A Whole Box of Emerald Beauts

This is one of the truly great things about living in Fresno. I can get a whole box of Emerald Beauts right from the source.

Joan Obra mentioned these in her article on plums in this week’s Fresno Bee food section – and they’re worth mentioning.

Green plums – and yellow plums too – have a tough time of it. I guess you could say – wait for it – it’s not easy being green.

(Groan, right? I’ve recently been watching old Muppet Show episodes on DVD and have suddenly realized what a debt I owe to the humor of the Muppets, especially Fozzie Bear – and that that might have something to do with nobody likes my jokes.)

Whether it’s the effect of primeval human conditioning (“hm, those green berries hurt my stomach last time”) or just that they look different-than-most, green and yellow plums get passed over because people assume they’re not ripe, or because they assume that because they’re green or yellow they must be tart and unpleasant-tasting. It’s not true – green plums and yellow plums can be just as sweet when ripe as a black, red, or purple plum.

And for these guys especially, that “not sweet” assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. Underneath that dusty-looking green skin, they have a golden-yellow flesh and are regular old sugar bombs, even when they’re pretty firm.

The dusty-looking stuff is called bloom. It’s a natural wax the fruit produces while it’s growing; grapes do the same thing. Different varieties produce more or less of it. It washes off really easily, and your skin’s natural oil will pick it right up when you touch the fruit, leaving a print where your finger was.

When you see a box that looks like this, you know that the fruit’s been specially picked and handled. The only way to keep the bloom looking this pristine is to pick the plums with cotton gloves, not wash them, and pack them – again, with gloves – straight from the picking bins.

Plum bloom is, in all seriousness, one of those little things that makes life worth living, as far as I’m concerned. Rub a bloomy plum gently against your lips the next time you get a chance. Okay, do it in private if you have to, but do it. It’s like a kiss from the fruit; it’ll make your day if you have a sensual bone in your body.

So – I have to make a plan this weekend. There’s way too much stone fruit at my house right now – here’s a picture from earlier today of what was hanging around besides the roughly 12 lbs. of plums above.

The peaches have now been dispensed with – they were baked this evening with cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, a splash of lemon juice and a little brown sugar, and eaten unadorned, warm from the oven – but the Moyer plums (the oval ones) and the Royal Diamond plums (the round ones) remain, as do these Emerald Beauts.

Stay tuned for recipes, hopefully, or just me being knocked down by a tide of ripening plums.

(Or if I keep the jokes at the caliber above, by them being hurled at me.)

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4 Responses to A Whole Box of Emerald Beauts

  1. Bethany says:

    Wow, that’s a lot of fruit. Maybe you could help me. I bought a bunch of peaches, hoping to make cobbler. They weren’t ripe. After a few days I stuck them in a brown paper bag to speed them up, upon which they promptly rotted. What do I do to hit that ripe stage?

  2. Jocelyn says:

    Keeping them in a fruit bowl or stashing them in a paper bag was exactly the right thing to do. Here’s what I think might have been the case:
    This time of the season, the peaches you bought may have been a “non-melting” type. There are melting and non-melting peaches. Melting peaches will get soft when they get ripe, and non-melting varieties, though they’ll get sweeter-tasting as they ripen, they don’t get really soft like melting varieties do. The soften a little, but it’s tough to tell if you’re used to checking melting varieties, which get perceptibly riper.
    I had some non-melting ones last week that I didn’t realize were that type until after a couple days of ripening in a bowl, they still weren’t soft. Then I figured they must be non-melting and bit into one – sure enough, it was sweet and juicy, just not super-soft.
    For cobbler, you can go ahead and bake with any stone fruits when they’re firm with a little give and not yet totally soft. They’ll soften as they cook. I’ve found that if I let them get dead ripe before I bake with them, they will lose more structural integrity as they bake. They still taste great, but they don’t look so hot.

  3. Kirsten says:

    I’m all about Muppet humor. That’s some good stuff.

  4. Jocelyn says:

    Have you seen that shirt from _The Onion_ that says “I understand the Muppets on a much deeper level than you.”?
    I keep thinking about ordering it.

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