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Plum Crazy

Plum Crazy

Written by Sam Lundie

At Boschendal we grow plums. A lot of them.  

I have learnt more things about plums in the few short weeks that I have been living on this farm than I ever thought it was necessary or advisable to know.

The first thing I learnt is that they are very fussy about their air quality. The one thing plums do not like is a load of dust kicked up off the farm roads by speeding bakkies. Too much dust means flawed complexions and since the good folks at Marks and Sparks like their plums peachy, we have to tar our roads or moderate our driving. So at Boschendal, we slow down for plums!

Hereʼs another thing I learnt about plums - they wonʼt fruit properly unless every fruiting bough has been painstaking hand bent and twisted down. Yep, thatʼs every single branch of every single tree, on every single row of the 30 hectares of land that we currently have under plums.....At Boschendal we are thoroughly bent and twisted!

Oh and thatʼs not all, like teenagers the world over, our baby plums need a lot of support. 10 wires of support on every row in fact. This year alone we have hung enough wire to stretch to Cape Town and back more than 8 times!

So who plants all these plums? These guys do!

A group of farm workers wiring plumtrees Two farm workers with bundles of poles

In winter it is finger numbing work. Sometimes they plant 1500 plum trees per day, so they have to take breaks to warm up their fingers on little bonfires at the ends of the rows. In the morning light, the little columns of smoke rising up and joining all over the farm create a misty web of grey that disperses slowly in the warming sun.

So what to do with all these plums? Well there's plum crumble obviously, or crumb plumble as it is known in our house, there's plum jam, sugary plum toasts with clotted cream, plum tart, stewed plums and custard, fresh plums, clearly, and even plum cobbler. You can find recipes for some of these delicious treats at the farm shop!

The one thing that I wanted to do with our plums was throw a Hanami / Umemi party. My Japanese friend, Tomako, told me that in Japan it is traditional to hold a blossom party under the plum trees in Spring. I swoon at the thought of the delicate white blossoms, indistiguishable from butterflies, the beautiful picnic food and the tinkling glasses of crisp white wine! I practically wrote a Haiku on the spot. So I broached the subject with Jacques, our fruit fundi. He laughed at me!!! A lot!!!

You see as soon as he spots the first bud waking and stretching from its winter sleep and shaking out its freshly laundered petals, heʼs into those orchards like an army general, with cohorts of hives and legions of bees. Anyone foolish enough to wander into those delightful avenues quaffing a glass of sauvignon is going to be coming out at a run pursued by a swarm of furious insects with a single purpose and a job to do. Pollination and it's delicious byproduct, honey!

A hand swollen from a bee sting

Here's what happened to me when I ignored his advice....

not an experience I wish to repeat, so now I shall enjoy them from the safety of my mini, driving slowly, with the windows up!