Plum Season

The tree tonight was SO plum-laden, the owners had its branches propped up with a 2x4!

The tree tonight was SO plum-laden, the owners had its branches propped up with a 2×4!

Volunteers are needed to help glean area plums this time of year. Mild winters, minimal rainfall during the growing season and low humidity conditions create productive crops. Oregon is a top grower of plums, second only to California in production in the United States. Eugene is fortunate to host many delicious varieties.

Picking

“Feel the fruit to determine its stage of ripeness. Fully ripe plums will feel slightly soft and yield to slight finger pressure. Gently apply pressure to the fruit with your thumb to check for softness. The skin will feel powdery, and the fruit will give off a pleasant aroma. Less ripe fruit will feel firm and smooth.” – gardenguides.com

Eating

Blue-black Italian prune-plums like “Blue Damsons” are best for drying. Yellow ones like “Yellow Egg” (oval) or “Shiro” (round) can make a tangy jam and are sweetest when soft. Red plums like “Santa Rosa” fruits have red skin, a slightly crisper texture and a sweet-tart taste lovely for eating fresh from the tree.

Storage

Store at room temperature until ripe, then refrigerate.

Apple Gleans

 Picture from Apple/plum glean this weekend. Deirdre's son!  Thanks for letting us come Cynthia & Ryan!

Picture from Apple/plum glean this weekend. Deirdre’s son! Thanks for letting us come Cynthia & Ryan!

Fall is apple time in Eugene. Many varieties of apples thrive in the Willamette valley including Braeburn, which ripens in early October and stores well. Jonagold and Gala ripen in late September and have a crisp flavor. Fresh picked off the tree, a juicy ripe apple is hard to beat.

Picking

“Picking apples directly from a tree is easy. Roll the apple upwards off the branch and give a little twist; don’t pull straight away from the tree. If two apples are joined together at the top, both will come away at the same time. Don’t shake the trees or branches.  If the apple you are trying to pick drops, (or others on the tree) go ahead and pick it up. They’re perfectly fine! A visitor who grew up on an orchard says to try to leave the stem on the apples.  He says that helped them store longer!” – pickyourown.org

Eating

Dried apple chips are a popular preparation method for preserving the bounty. Apple Sharlotka is a delicious dessert that is as beautiful as it is tasty. Fallen or beat up looking apples still make a good applesauce but give them a good dunk in cold water with some salt added to ease out any worms first, then rinse them well in water with some vinegar added to release any grit.

Storage

Store apples and pears in clean wooden or cardboard boxes that are ventilated to allow air circulation. If you have a crisper drawer in your refrigerator, use it for apples, it works beautifully.

Blueberries

BlueberriesBlueberries are a favorite glean. It can be a challenge to locate every ripe berry on a bush but the payoff is sweet. Blueberries are high in antioxidant and vitamins and packed with flavor. Lane County has a great number of growers (see http://www.oregonblueberry.com).

Picking

“If you carry your berries in a bucket, you may want to add a rope on the bucket so that you can hang it around your neck or over your shoulder. An excellent bucket can easily be made by taking a 1 gallon plastic milk jug and cutting off 1/2 of the top and sides, making sure you leave the handle part on. You can then put the handle through your belt, and you now have two hands to pick with! Kids – have your parents cut the milk jug for you.” – http://www.wikihow.com/Pick-Blueberries

Eating

From muffins, smoothies and pie to cookies, popsicles, and freezer jam, these berries are versatile and easy to use.

Storage

“Remove any twigs or leaves along with any berries that are soft or moldy. Refrigerate in the original container up to five days. When you’re ready to use them, rinse berries under cold water, drain, and pat dry.” – http://www.marthastewart.com

“Talk about a convenience food: no pit, no peel, no puttering. Even freezing is a snap. Which makes it the perfect fruit for people who have to put off the making of their preserves until the fall or winter. Just pack the berries into freezer bags and pop them into the freezer.” – http://www.registerguard.com/