A hankering for plum jelly and fresh pear salad

By TIM BEELAND,

It’s a good thing I did not go ahead and buy the jars, bands, and lids for the abundance of plum jelly and canned pears I have been boasting we would have stocked in our pantry this fall. Hard freeze warning! Really?

I planted my plum tree in 2005, the year of the great Hurricane Katrina. When that storm blew through it laid the little tree over on the ground and I figured it was a goner. After we cleared the debris from the yard I propped it back up and staked it out good, and low and behold it took root and flourished, although still a bit tilted as it has grown.

Over the past 14 years the tree has continued to bloom and grow and occasionally provides us with a plum or two. When it does bear fruit it is fine stuff — large, sweet, juicy, red plums. Unfortunately, the most we ever gathered in a season only amounted to a dozen or so.

Birds, squirrels and four young neighbor girls — who liked knocking the plums off the branches to throw at each more than anything else, I think — took their toll. But this year, this year was going to be my year.

Warm weather, plenty of rain, and perhaps just the right amount of whatever it takes to bring a plum tree into perfect bloom lined up and my fabulous, still tilting tree looked to be on the right track for a glorious harvest and then what did we get?

A hard freeze!

Didn’t I see on the news that the groundhog “did not” see his shadow this year?!

Oh, well, time will tell, and we will hold off on purchasing those jars, and bands, and lids...for now.

As a child playing in the red dirt ditches, and climbing what seemed like towering dirt banks to the woods edge, there was always an abundance of wild plums in every stage of ripeness. There were tart green ones that made me pucker, and sweet, yellow, and orange, and red ones as well. They were small, and often we had to eat around the worms, but they sure were good. The plums, that is!

My grandparents on my dad’s side lived at Hayes Crossing  between Highway 21 and Sulphur Springs. The little hillside above Mawmaw’s house was full of plums and it doesn’t seem like there was ever a time in my childhood when we didn’t have plum jelly with homemade, buttered biscuits. I never really cared much for homemade biscuits — still don’t — but enough butter and jelly made/make them palatable. Perhaps even good!

At my other grandparent’s place on Pine Grove Road just above Sebastopol, where my wife Danny and I live now, there were two fine pear trees out front of the house. One of them has long since turned to mulch, but the other strives to provide us with fresh fruit year after year.

Two years ago it was loaded to the gill and the branches drooped so close to the ground with the sweet treats that we had to fight the deer and squirrels to see “who” could beat “what” to the harvest. Last year, I think, maybe two pears survived a late freeze.

For the last month I’ve been watching that pear tree, hoping — almost praying — for a bountiful crop. Like with my plum tree, I thought this was going to be a good season. The old tree began blooming, slowly but surely, about a week ago and Sunday before the wind started blowing and the temperatures started dropping looked like it, too, was headed for success.

You all know the rest of the story. Hard freeze! Time will tell.

Perhaps it is time, however, that I took the “almost praying” thing a step further if I ever hope to have homemade plum jelly — on buttered toast of course — and fresh pear salad again.

It’s certainly worth a try if I’m going to cure this hankering I’ve got!