Guy Warner: A plum job

PUBLISHED: 15:54 01 October 2018 | UPDATED: 15:55 01 October 2018

Victoria plums

Victoria plums

Archant

Fresh, locally grown plums are the unsung heroes of the fruit world so seek out local varieties and rediscover the joy of your childhood fruit

When was the last time you enjoyed a plum? I mean really enjoyed a plum? I’m not talking those rather dull, supermarket ripen-at-home varieties, I’m talking chin-dribblingly juicy with a flavour so sweet you can’t believe it’s all natural.

Well, believe it or not, those plums are still around but you do have to sniff them out – from independent retailers, farmers’ markets, small producers or friendly neighbours who are weighed down by their garden crops.

I genuinely love plums, but they absolutely have to be local and fresh from the tree. That’s why plum season at Warner’s Budgens is eagerly anticipated with as much reverence as asparagus and strawberry season. Around the third week of August we’ll start to see freshly-picked plums, full of ambrosial promise, arriving from our local fruit farm in Winchcombe.

Martin Harrell from Hayles Fruit Farm has been supplying us with his plums (and locally-grown apples and strawberries) for many years and they are always a sell-out in our stores. There are favourites such as Victoria and Marjorie seedling, but to this day, I don’t think you can beat supersweet greengages, (yes, remember those?) and let’s not forget glorious damsons, although frustratingly, most of the ones that grow in our garden end up consumed by the dog who seems to have rather a sweet tooth!

Customer Heather Spragg and Martin Harrel from Hayles Fruit Farm (c) Chris Fairweather / Thousand Word MediaCustomer Heather Spragg and Martin Harrel from Hayles Fruit Farm (c) Chris Fairweather / Thousand Word Media

Over the year, Martin can pick up to three tonnes of plums in the short eight-week season. They are carefully grown to reach the perfect size and managed to minimise the need for insecticides. And while it may be a short season, thanks to modern storage techniques, the crops can be stored and kept fresh for longer.

I’ve seen first-hand how hard Martin and his team works to produce their crops for us and it’s no small task. All year round, they are at the mercy of the weather – the horrendous spring means plum numbers are down on last year, but hopefully summer’s sunny spell means the plums we do have will be the sweetest, juiciest ones yet.

Victoria plumsVictoria plums

But it’s not just the weather that makes it a tough time for plums. As more of us are conditioned to shop in big supermarkets, traditional varieties are fast falling out of favour. These larger supermarkets are simply not geared up to deal with small producers, which means most of the public is missing out on a cracking product.

If you thought you didn’t care for plums that much, I urge you to dig around locally and try some of the fab fruits growing in the Cotswolds. Don’t just rely on the identikit fruit you find on the big supermarket shelves – there’s a plum for every palate, if you know where to look.

Pick up a fresh plum at Warner’s Budgens stores in Broadway, Winchcombe, Moreton-in-Marsh and Bidford-on-Avon, and at Hayles Fruit Farm, Winchcombe.

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