Growing up – we had a plum tree in the backyard. In the far northeast corner of the yard – bellied up next to the stone covered alley and at the edge of the property line. I think it was a plum tree…I mean, it is what the whole family extended and otherwise referred to it as. A point of reference, as in ‘I saw baby bunnies back by the plum tree’. It could have been an orange tree for all I knew. But we will go with plum for the sake of the story and I remember seeing tiny purple fruit hanging from the branches. So, yes…it must have been a plum. For a grapevine, it was not.
For many years, there was a dog house that sat in front of the tree until it didn’t any longer. Not much else existed near it.
I hated, loathed, despised that corner of the yard. The tree was not welcoming like the tall climbing-friendly shady maples that were scattered elsewhere in the yard – the limbs were narrow and dark and gnarly in the worst way and they hung much too close to the ground to partake in its sparse shade. To a kid, it held no real purpose. Plus, there always seemed to be more spiders and ants (rotting fruit brings all the insects to the yard) in, on, around the plum tree than anywhere else in my world. It was my version of the haunted forest.
We never ate the small cloudy-purple skinned fruit that grew each summer and then fell to the earth every fall. They were raked up with the leaves and other fall debris and deposited in the garden. Every year we sat that pile ablaze ( gosh, I loved those darn fires) until mom had the fire department called on her and the plum tree gave fruit until mom hacked it down, too.
That corner of the yard now has three flowering Cleveland Pear trees, a few day lilies, and a hosta or two. You can say mom has successfully cast her green thumb magic, as it looks nothing like what I remember as a child. This transformation however has not quelled my distaste for that corner. I continue to hesitate, as I did when I was 8, to venture back there after a bad toss during a game of pitch and catch sends a ball rolling in its direction.
Mom walked me back there just the other week to show me that the ‘damn plum tree‘ was regrowing. And don’t ya know it…there it was …trying to make a re-emergence into this world. I laughed and my mom groaned as she began plotting its demise.
These past few weeks, I have been receiving Italian plums in my CSA and they are quite familiar in shape and size and color. It leads me to wonder if that was what was growing in our back yard all those years – I have done quite the extensive Google image search and results remain inconclusive.
As I bake plum tarts and tortes and pies and begin proclaiming that plums are my favorite stone fruit to bake with, peaches, who? I am strongly considering petitioning my mother to allow the plum tree to make a comeback. That is if she can guarantee no spiders and that it was, in fact, a plum tree that produced edible fruit.
If you haven’t any plums, I would reckon that peaches would be just as delightful although I haven’t given it a shot yet. Honestly, this crust is kind of stellar and any fruit or fruit jam/jelly would be lucky to shack up within its edges. When I venture beyond plums, I will be sure to update this here blog.
Oh and hey, a little off topic, but whatevs….this is my newspaper clipping for the day – from me to you. Read it and let’s be weird as f*ck together.
Anyways, before the plums leave us for this year…get your butt in the kitchen and make this here tart. Let me know if you use something other than plums…however, I am buying all the plums and making all the tarts until my love shifts towards apples, pumpkin, and cinnamon. My love is ever shifting…
- 1 cup spelt flour (if you do not have spelt, use All-Purpose flour)
- 1 cup All-Purpose flour
- ¾ cup gently packed light brown sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- ¾ cup finely chopped roasted walnuts
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced and chilled
- pinch of salt
- ¼ cup old fashioned oats
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1.5 to 2 lbs (about 12 to 14) Italian plums, quartered lengthwise (choose relatively firm but ripe)
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- In a large bowl, combine spelt flour, all purpose flour, sugar, egg yolk, walnuts, and butter. Using your hands, a pastry blender, a mixer, or a food processor, combine ingredients until a ball of dough forms.
- Transfer about ⅔ of dough into a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom or a spring form pan and evenly press dough into pan and up the sides (about an inch or so up the sides if using a spring form pan).
- With remaining dough mix in oats and cinnamon until well combined. Set aside.
- Layer plums, skin side up, onto crust in a flower pattern starting on the outside and working your way in towards the center. Crumble remaining crust over plums.
- Place on a baking sheet and then place in preheated oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes until crust is browned and plums begin to release their juices and bubble. If the topping and edges begin to brown too quickly tent with a piece of tin foil until finished baking.
- Remove from oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes before removing tart from its respectful pan (tart or springform).
Adapted from Ina Garten's Plum Tart