Foraged Plum Butter

Foraged Plum Butter

Two years ago, our plum trees produced so many fruits we were reaching up into the branches and pulling them down by the handful. Plump, juicy, as purple-black as a midnight sky, they were heavenly. I made tarts, pies, jam, butter; I grilled them and ate them by the handful. I didn’t think it could get any better.

Last year, I was impossibly enthusiastic for our plums to appear. I planned pies and fragrant tarts, and I eagerly waited. And waited. And waited. But by the middle of July, when nary a fruit had graced the tree’s branches, it became apparent that I’d have to seek other sources. So one day, determined to have plums, I embarked on various trails in the foothills of Boulder. Over the course of several weeks, I found almost three dozen wild trees heavy with rosy plums. Different from the dark purple variety on our trees, they were smaller, juicier, even sweeter than ours.

What made it home in my backpack, I made into jams and muffins and tarts. As the weather got colder, I plucked a basketful of firm, barely pink ones, and let them ripen in my sunny front room (we just finished the last of these a few days ago). But mostly, my foraging friends and I sat under the branches of the wild plum trees, and nibbled on fruit until we were giddy.

No matter which variety you choose, plums are loaded with antioxidants and fiber, and both help to increase the body’s absorption of iron. Either variety works in the recipes that follow. But there’s something about foraging for—and finding—your own that adds to the sweetness of the experience.

Plum Butter
Makes about 1 pint

Late summer and early fall’s wild plums make the best jam and preserves; if you’re lucky enough to live in an area where they’re abundant, gather them in the wild. Otherwise, store-bought varieties are equally delicious. This recipe uses a slow cooker to gently simmer the plums without scorching, allowing for a thick, creamy texture without too much added sugar.

2 pounds ripe plums or wild plums, pitted and halved
1/2 to 3/4 cup organic unrefined cane sugar
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons lemon juice

  1. Combine plums and water in a slow cooker. Turn heat to high, cover and cook for 2 hours, stirring every half hour. Turn heat to low and continue cooking for 6 to 7 hours, until plums are very soft.
  2. Add sugar and lemon juice. Transfer to a food processor and puree until smooth. Transfer to a pint jar and refrigerate for up to 10 days. Plum butter may also be frozen.


Plum Tarts with Oat and Nut Crust
Makes 6 tarts

            Use any gluten-free flour mix that appeals to you, or experiment with your own using a combination of gluten-free flours from the bulk department. I like Jules Gluten Free Flour Mix.

1 cup gluten-free flour mix or whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup walnuts
2 tablespoons unrefined cane sugar
Pinch salt
3 tablespoons very cold, unsalted butter
1 pound plums
10 fresh figs
1/2 cup macadamia nuts
6 tablespoons crème fraiche

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil six miniature tart tins (preferably tins with removable bottoms).
  2. Combine flour, oats, walnuts, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to mix. With motor running, add butter, a few chunks at a time, and process until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of ice water, just enough to form a moist dough; dough should be soft but not sticky. If it seems too wet, add an additional 2 tablespoons flour, or as needed. Divide mixture into six balls of dough, about the size of a large golf ball (2 oz each), and press into tart pans.
  3. Pit and chop plums (peeling is optional). Combine plums, figs and macadamia nuts in a food processor, and pulse to form a thick, sticky, paste-like mixture.
  4. Divide filling between tart pans and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until filling is bubbly. Remove from oven, and let cool on a rack. Carefully remove tarts from tins and arrange on a serving platter or individual plates. Top with crème fraiche and serve warm. Or refrigerate for several hours and serve chilled.


Arugula Salad with Grilled Plums, Goat Cheese and Peppered Cashews
Serves 4

            Goat cheese or Stilton cheese is a tangy counterpart to this fresh, fruit salad, but the vegan version is just as delicious. Cashews add additional crunch and flavor; if you’re pressed for time, just add roasted, salted cashews.

4 ripe but firm plums
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons plum jam (see recipe) or other fruit jam
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
½ cup raw cashews
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups baby arugula leaves
4 cups baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1/4 to 1/3 cup goat cheese

  1. Preheat grill to medium-high and lightly oil racks.
  2. Halve plums lengthwise and remove pits. Cut each half into thirds and arrange on grill. Grill for 2 minutes per side.
  3. While plums are grilling, whisk together vinegar and jam. Slowly whisk in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Heat coconut oil in a small pan. Add cashews and toss to coat. Cook until just golden, then sprinkle lightly with salt and liberally with black pepper.
  5. Combine arugula, spinach, basil and onion in a bowl with just enough dressing to lightly coat leaves, and toss to mix. Add goat cheese, if using, and grilled plums. Toss to mix, and season with salt and pepper. Divide salad between four individual plates and serve immediately.