Mariposa Plum Harvest

Last Saturday, I volunteered with an organization called Village Harvest, which is an organization based out of the Bay Area that harvests fruit from fruit trees in the area and donates the fruit to food banks. Some of the fruit trees are on public property, and some of the fruit trees are on private property (the people who own the land donate the fruit to Village Harvest by allowing Village Harvest volunteers to pick the fruit).

They harvest all kinds of fruit throughout the season. The apricot season just ended here, and last Saturday was the first of the plum harvests. We picked Mariposa plums from a couple of clusters of plum trees (about 15 trees in total) on land near a law firm in Palo Alto (the land may or may not have been owned by the law firm – I wasn’t clear).

Mariposa plums are a kind of Japanese plum. It has small- to medium-sized fruit that are red with green spots on the outside and has red flesh inside. The volunteer coordinator, at the beginning of the harvest, told us that these plums “weren’t all that good raw” and were better cooked into baked goods or into spiced plum jam.

There were 12 of us volunteering that day, and we harvested over 400 lbs of plums!

The volunteers got to take home “seconds.” These are plums that we picked up off the ground, or fell on the ground as we were harvesting, or had a soft spot or blemish. Village Harvest can’t donate any fruit that has fallen on the ground because they can’t be sure that the fruit will be washed before it is eaten and they don’t want to be held liable for getting people sick from eating dirty fruit.

….ok….

More plums for me!

I took home a good sized bag of plums.

I cooked them up in a clafoutis, since we had been told that they weren’t very good raw.

I forgot to get a photo before we cut into the clafoutis.

Turns out, they were delicious raw, and this clafoutis kinda stank. It rose nicely, but it tasted bland and the texture just wasn’t right. I’m eating the rest raw.

The Community Orchard

I’ve shown photos of the Community Garden here, but it’s actually a Community Garden and Orchard.

Above the garden area, separated by a small forest of trees and a creek, there is a very large slope which is mostly grass, but around which we’ve scattered fruit trees and other edibles. Let me give you a photographic tour:

From the path up from the garden, the first part of the orchard you come to is the fig orchard (this is on the right side of the panoramic photo above). This space has been demarcated with a wattle fence, which weeds have completely overgrown. There are maybe 20 (ish?) fig trees planted in here – several different varieties. Some years we’ve planted other annual crops around the base of the fig trees (I remember one year we tried growing melons with not much success). That’s obviously not going to happen this year. Too many weeds.

Looking back at the fig orchard toward the path to the garden

Across the lawn, up the slope is what we call “the edible hedge.” This next photo is a view from the fig orchard looking up at the edible hedge (the cluster of trees and bushes in the mid/right side of the photo).

The edible hedge was established several years before the community garden was created. It separates the lawn from the street, and all of the plants in it are, in fact, edible (surprise surprise). My favorite is the quince tree, but there are also aronia berries, goji berries, an apricot tree, plum trees, seabuckthorn berry, a mulberry tree and many others whose names I don’t know.

The edible hedge from the street/sidwalk side
The edible hedge from the lawn

Going back down across the lawn there are some crabapple, apple, and plum trees planted along a trail into the woods that leads back down the tennis courts next to the Community Garden.

Continuing along the lawn away from the fig orchard, and you’ll come to more plum trees, and at least one chestnut tree. (This area corresponds to the left-hand side of the panorama photo.) We also tried growing paw paw trees, but I don’t see them anymore, so they must not have survived.

This concludes our tour of the orchard. I don’t spend a lot of time working up in the orchard, so I tend to forget about it until its time to harvest plums or quince or chestnuts. The quince are my absolute favorite, and I will miss them when I move.