By Bruce Stambaugh
For those of us fortunate to live in North America’s temperate zone, this is the plum time of year. I mean that literally and figuratively.
The literal part is that locally grown plums are at the peak of their ripeness. I’m just plum crazy for plums.
I remember traveling with my grandfather, who knew as many people in the world as my gregarious father did. Grandpa Merle loved to stop at roadside produce stands, especially where he knew the proprietors. If they had ripe plums, he always bought a peck or two.
I loved everything about them, their simple size, their football shape, their blue violet sheen, their light greenish-yellow flesh, their sweet tart taste, and even the pit.
I liked the size because, especially for a kid, they weren’t too big, which meant we could usually eat more than one. I liked their oblong shape because it was easy to bite in to.
I found the plum’s color inviting. The moist sweetness with the tart aftertaste was both delicious and curious. I liked the texture of their meat and the fact that, unlike other fresh fruit, you could bite into them without having juice run down your arm and drip off your elbow.
Much to my mother’s chagrin, I often plopped a whole one in my mouth. My mother highly discouraged my poor manners to no avail. I often eat the lovely plums the same way today.
Once devoured, that left the seed. I didn’t eat it of course. For whatever reason, I tucked the pit, which mirrored the shape of its fruit, into my left cheek and sucked on it for hours. I could play an entire baseball game with a plum seed nestled between my cheek and gum. It seemed to help keep my mouth moist. Besides, it was better than the usual baseball alternative, snuff.
All those memories resurfaced for me when my wife brought home some plums from the local produce stand. They were accompanied by Bartlett pears, squash, zucchini and preserved sugar beets, too. The fall harvest was on, one of the primary symbols of the season.
We are enjoying an abundance of tomatoes that have seemed to ripen in our modest patch all at once. There isn’t one heirloom I don’t enjoy, and they can be eaten in so many different ways, right off the vine, fresh salsa, in sandwiches, sauces, and with pasta.
Our neighbors added to the feast by insisting we help them out by accepting and consuming a sampling of the last of their bumper crop of sweet corn. It was amazingly sweet for this late in the growing season.
The days have grown shorter and cooler, both daytime and night. The leaves on the deciduous trees have begun to turn. They started falling shortly after Labor Day.
The webs of black and yellow garden spiders catch the frequent morning mist and then sparkle diamonds in the sun’s rays. The sunrises and sunsets are breathtaking, each one picture perfect.
The dogwood and holly berries are bright red. Yellow jackets are everywhere. Unkempt fields, once purple with ironweed blooms, have morphed to mustard with thousands of goldenrod heads bending from their fullness. Wild tickseed sunflowers brighten the dustiest roadside.
Autumn has arrived. Either metaphorically or realistically, transitioning from summer to fall in northern Ohio is a plum time of year.