At last, juicy Western Australian plums are hitting their peak and what a treat they are. With beautiful rich colour, soft smooth skin and a sweet fresh aroma, just wait till you taste them. Yes, it’s been quite a wait for the for these jewel coloured beauties but now they are ripe and ready and the prices are very reasonable.
Mid-January to February is the best time for plums with an abundance of large sweet and delicious fruit coming from right throughout WA, including the Hills, Donnybrook and Manjimup.
There are around 200 different varieties of plums to choose from at various stages of the season so it’s a bit tricky to select by variety. It’s more common to know the flesh colour and style that you prefer. In the coming weeks the firm yellow flesh varieties like Black Amber and Amber Jewel will take the spotlight so there is no time to waste if you’re a serious plum fan.
Although every plum differs to some degree in colour, size and taste, the two main categories are; European plums and Japanese plums. European plums are oval-shaped and about 5 – 6cm long with a range of pink to purple skins. Flesh can range from yellow, to creamy-white, to blood red. Japanese plums are round to heart-shaped, 5 – 8cm long and their skin colour can range from yellow to red. Their flesh can be yellow, amber or yellow with red.
Plums do not continue to sweeten once they are picked so choose carefully. Ripe plums lose their glossy sheen, so this is the best guide for the naked eye. Also ensure smooth skin that is free of blemishes, soft spots or discolouration. If you have purchased plums that are a little firm they may be left for a day or two at room temperature to soften. Alternatively, use up any plums past their prime by poaching in a light syrup for a delicious topping to ice-cream, yogurt or morning cereal.
Fresh plums make a quick, healthy and delicious snack on their own. A cold plum straight from the fridge makes a refreshing treat on a hot day. Ripe plums should keep this way for around five days. They are also ideal for juice, jams and chutneys, and make fantastic fillings for pies, tarts and cakes.
Enjoy Western Australian plums while they are at their peak, right throughout summer.
Plum, yoghurt muesli pots
- 8 blood plums halved with stones removed
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 400 g thick Greek yoghurt
- 1½ cups toasted muesli
- Place the plums onto a baking dish lined with baking paper, sprinkle with brown sugar and ½ cup water, cook under a preheated grill until the plums are soft.
- Divide half the plums between four serving glasses, top with yoghurt, muesli and finish with remaining plums and syrup.
Plum dessert cake
- 8 plums halved with stones removed
- 3 tablespoons butter
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon extra sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 egg
- ⅓ cup buttermilk
- ¾ cup self-raising flour
- Heat oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 23cm round cake tin.
- Whisk together butter and sugar till creamy. Add egg, vanilla and buttermilk. Whisk till well combined. Fold through sifted flour till batter is smooth then pour into prepared cake tin.
- Arrange plum pieces onto cake. Sprinkle with extra tablespoon of caster sugar. Bake for 25 – 30 mins or until cake is cooked when tested. Cool to room temperature. Serve with a dollop of cream and dusted with icing sugar.
What’s fresh in the market place for February
Amber jewel plums: A lovely large, red heart-shaped fruit that was developed here in WA. The rich gold-coloured flesh is sweet and juicy even when the fruit is firm. Buy plums with plenty of colour, a somewhat dull skin and just a little softness. Ripe plums lose their sheen, so the best guide to plum ripeness is to look for plums with an all over dull colour. For great tasting plums, correct storage and handling are important. If your plums seem a little firm they may be left for a few days at room temperature to soften. Store ripe plums in the refrigerator. Plums are ideal for juice, syrups, jams, chutneys and make fantastic fillings for pies, tarts and cakes.
Donut peaches: A unique white fleshed peach, small and flat with a sunken centre (shaped like a doughnut). Can be eaten firm or soft and are naturally sweet and juicy. They’re a huge hit with kids, as they are easy to hold in hand, easy to eat and have great novelty factor.
Bartlett pears: Another lovely new-season delight, Bartlett Pears are the first of the autumn pome fruits to arrive in the market. Look for a light green to yellow pear, or a red-green in the case of ‘Red Sensation’ Bartlett’s. They’re medium sized and are sweet and aromatic with the Red Sensation being slightly tarter. These pears are a good all-rounder being suitable for both cooking and eating fresh. To test for ripeness, the flesh near the stem should give when gently pressed. It’s often best to buy them quite firm and let them ripen at room temperature for a couple of days, however remember that pears ripen from the inside out, so don’t leave them too long. Pears and a strong cheese such as a blue or a goat’s cheese are a gorgeous combination.
Celery: Select celery with fresh looking leaves and tightly formed stalks. Use finely sliced celery to add crunch and flavour contrast to salads, especially an Asian-influenced brown rice version drizzled with sesame oil and a dash of rice wine vinegar. Sliced portions are the perfect New Year detox substitute for a cracker to dip into hummus and tzatziki.
Swiss brown mushrooms: Plenty of flavour and just the right size for popping into summer salads, rice pilafs and pasta dishes. These nutty brown mushrooms work well with Asian flavours such as chilli, ginger and coriander; try stir-frying in the above plus a dollop of hoisin sauce and serving with honey glazed pork and steamed greens.