I’ve been on a drive to add more fruit trees to the garden this year. Not all go into the ground – my two lemon trees and the ‘baby’ apricot trees that I grew from stones are in pots so that they can be given some extra protection from the elements over the winter. And we’d need some serious climate change before the avocado tree that my daughter is growing would survive outdoors.
But I do love the idea of growing something to leave in the garden for the next owners to enjoy when we move on. From gardeners who have worked this garden in the past, we inherited apple, pear, damson and greengage trees. The previous owner added some cobnut trees to this fruity collection – last year was the first time I managed to harvest some of the nuts before the squirrel pinched them all! Guided largely by my stomach, I’ve decided that my contribution to the fruit garden is going to be a plum tree. Not sure which variety yet, but I have a spot picked out for the tree and want to get it in the ground this autumn.
I’m usually given a bag or two of ripe plums by friends who already have productive trees in their gardens. But this year the crop hasn’t been so good, and I’ve had to resort to looking for plums at the market. Last week there were some lovely big English plums on my favourite fruit and veg stall. Almost as soon as they were through the kitchen door, they were turned into a lightly spiced compote with some lemon verbena leaves swirled through to give a gentle hint of lemon.
The compote is perfect for a quick, and reasonably healthy, weekday breakfast with a couple of big spoonfuls of Greek yoghurt. If it’s the weekend and you have more time, try it with a stack of thick, fluffy American-style pancakes, more yoghurt and a swirl of maple syrup. Just add a mug of hot coffee and the weekend papers – could there be a better way to start the day?
Plum & Lemon Verbena Compote
5 large plums
50g dark muscovado sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
leaves from 3 sprigs of lemon verbena, quite finely chopped
zest of ½ lemon (optional)
Wash and halve the plums. Remove the stone, then chop the flesh into smallish pieces. Put the chopped plums, sugar and cinnamon into a pan over a low heat. Stir and allow the sugar to dissolve completely before you increase the heat and bring the mixture to a steady simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until the fruit pieces are tender and easily broken up. At this stage you can mash the plums up a little with the back of a wooden spoon to get the texture you like.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the chopped lemon verbena leaves. If you like a good strong lemony flavour, stir in some lemon zest too. Allow to cool slightly.