In season: Plums

For Brandon Smith, market program director for Watsonia Farms in Monetta, S.C., a juicy, ripe plum is a nice break from a steady diet of summer peaches. That makes sense when you know the farm, owned by Jerry and Joe Watson, and Joe’s son, Jeph, harvests fruit from hundreds of thousands of peach trees, but only a few hundred plum trees.

Plums, like peaches, are referred to as stone fruit because of their rock-hard pits. Smith says local plums (as well as nectarines) will be a little harder to come by this year because the blossoms were damaged by the region’s severe late frosts. But he still expects to be able to stock his booths with plums and nectarines. All of Watsonia’s plums and nectarines are certified organic.

He adds that although many varieties of peaches were also damaged, the Watsons have enough trees that their farmers market booths will be well stocked with peaches.

The plums at Watsonia came from the breeding program of the University of Georgia and Fort Valley State University. The Watsons added plums to their orchards about 15 years ago, when the farm switched from an exclusive focus on peaches to farming a wide range of fruits and vegetables. They grow several varieties of red plums, including Red Beauty.

“All our varieties are early ones since later varieties don’t tend to crop reliably in the Southeast, at least on our farm,” said Smith. If nature cooperates, they are generally able to offer plums from late May through June.

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Watsonia also has a small stand of plumcots, the plum-apricot cross.

Some local farms have stands of wild plum trees which may have survived the frosts to provide enough fruit for local farmers markets.

Plums can range in color from green and amber to all shades of red and purple. The skins can be tart, while the flesh is generally sweet. Hard plums will soften as they sit at room temperature but they don’t sweeten as the ripening happens on the tree. Once they’re soft, refrigerate them and use within a few days.

Watsonia is selling at many farmers markets in metro Atlanta. On Tuesdays, you can find their booth at the Whistle Stop Farmers Market in Norcross. On Wednesdays, they’re at the Dunwoody Green Market, Douglasville Farmers and Artisans Market and the Decatur Farmers Market. On Fridays they’re at Cumming’s Brookwood Farmers Market. Saturdays they’re at Peachtree Road Farmers Market, the Green Market at Piedmont Park, the Downtown Alpharetta Farmers Market, the Sandy Springs Farmers Market, the Brookhaven Farmers Market, the Suwanee Farmers Market, Decatur Farmers Market and Snellville Farmers Market.

For strawberry season only, they’re at the East Atlanta Village Farmers Market on Thursdays. For peach season, they’re at the Saturday morning Freedom Farmers Market in Atlanta.

Check the Watsonia Farms page on Facebook for market schedule updates.

Article 14’s Cinnamon Plums with French Toast

Hands on: 15 minutes Total time: 15 minutes Serves: 4

Chris Blobaum, corporate executive chef of Legacy Restaurant Partners, created this recipe when he was working in southern California. He purchased plums from his local farmers market and turned them into a brunch feature. “I use the plums when they come in season and vary the varieties I use. My favorite is the Redheart for this recipe. But also Burbank and Santa Rosa are delicious. In other seasons you could substitute dried plums (prunes), pitted cherries, etc., but because of the red juice your fruit should be a dark color. The other option is substitute another fruit juice, and then use peaches, apricots or other stone fruits that are available,” he wrote.

This French toast will be on Article 14’s menu when the plums come into season. Blobaum suggests the Cinnamon Plums would be also great on homemade vanilla ice cream, a waffle, even grilled chicken or venison if you cut back a bit on the sugar.

1/4 cup milk

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

8 1/2-inch slices brioche

Cinnamon Plums (see recipe)

In a large bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium-low heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter and swirl to coat the bottom of the skillet. Dip two brioche slices in milk-egg mixture and allow to soak briefly just until they absorb liquid but not so long that they fall apart. Put slices in skillet and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and keep warm. Repeat with two more slices of brioche. Melt remaining tablespoon of butter in skillet and repeat process with remaining four slices of brioche. Serve two slices of French toast with 4 or 5 plum halves and some of their syrup.

Per serving: 245 calories (percent of calories from fat, 37), 8 grams protein, 30 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 10 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 123 milligrams cholesterol, 348 milligrams sodium.

Article 14’s Cinnamon Plums

Hands on: 10 minutes Total time: 25 minutes Makes: 28 poached plum halves

2 1/2 cups pomegranate juice, more if needed

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cinnamon stick

2 pounds plums, halved and pitted (about 14)

In a medium saucepan, combine juice and sugar and bring to a simmer. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add cinnamon stick, increase heat and bring mixture to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add plums. Add more juice if needed to just cover plums. Simmer plums until tender, but not disintegrating, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow to cool in the syrup. Plums may be served warm or at room temperature. May be made up to 4 days in advance and stored, in syrup, in the refrigerator.

Per plum half: 57 calories (percent of calories from fat, 3), trace protein, 14 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, trace fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 1 milligram sodium.

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