An English heritage plum
“I have an allotment in Tottenham and there used to be an enormous greengage tree on my neighbour’s plot,” says demonstration chef Celia Brooks. “It absolutely dripped greengages, which I was thrilled about because they are my favourite plum. That is where I fell in love with them—just eating them off the tree.”
A member of the plum family, greengages are one of the lesser-known English fruits, but are loved by those that get to know them. “When they are ripe they are lovely. They have a slight acidity in the skin which perfectly balances the sweetness in the flesh,” Celia enthuses.
“Like most plums, greengages are great for cooking with. They make a wonderful chutney. Just use any recipe for a traditional plum chutney, or for something a bit different, if you have some fennel seeds and maybe just a sprinkle of fenugreek seeds, throw them in. It goes wonderfully with a nice, sharp monterey cheddar.”
Beautiful green colour
Celia also shares an idea for a very unusual looking tart. “They have a very distinct, beautiful green colour which they retain when cooked, so the finished tart looks really different,” she explains. “I like to cook them in a very rustic, rough and ready tart using shortcrust pastry.
“Cut the greengages in half and take out the stone. Toss them in a bowl with some sugar and cinnamon, roll out your pastry and pile the fruit into the middle. Throw on a couple of knobs of butter, fold the pastry over the top and bake. They will just start to break down inside the pastry. It will be really messy to eat, but delicious with some ice cream or crème fraiche.”
If in any doubt, our chef tells us you can just treat them as you would a regular plum. “You could just use them in your favourite plum recipe—they would work well.”
National Fruit Collection
Charlie, who is one of the directors of Turnips, says that this traditional plum is very popular at this time of year and we are now approaching the end of the season, so if you want to try some, get to the Market quickly. “We get most of ours from Brogdale Farm, which is home of the National Fruit Collection,” he explains. “Their aim is to keep as many British fruit varieties as they can. They are fantastic, we like using them.”
Charlie explains that the British greengage season is actually quite short, running from August to late September, but with the late summer this year the season has gone on a bit longer. “That is for those grown outdoors, which we think have the best flavour. You can extend the seasons using polytunnels, but we don't buy from them because to us they don’t taste as good,” he reveals.
“We sometimes buy from Italy, France and Spain to extend the season to three or four months, but our ethos is: if we buy from abroad, we will only do so when the fruit isn’t in season here, and is in season there. We feel this has less impact on the British farmer—we don’t want to end up losing the real product.” Luckily the greengage is still with us and it is nice to know that by picking, eating and baking them, we are doing our bit for the preservation of British heritage fruits.