I’m sure social media has changed foraging. In this super-connected world information that used to be passed along slowly, often by meeting your neighbor at the letterbox, is now distributed to a much wider community instantly.
I love that there is still a code and etiquette about foraging information though. Very seldom are actual locations revealed on social platforms. There has to be further, personal contact if you want to know exactly where.
So it was with a recent post from Gareth Renowden from Limestone Hills. Gareth & his wife Camille are some of my favourite local people, and in his usual spirit of generosity Gareth alerted the world to the fact that his favourite wild plums were ripe for the picking via Facebook.
As a family we’ve enjoyed food collecting and hunting since my babies were tiny, they’re slightly larger now and have become gun collectors. As such they needed little encouragement to pick near the river on a beautiful summer’s afternoon.
There are plenty of wild plums everywhere in this district but, like apples, they are incredibly variable – different colours, flavours and sizes, often right next to each other. A good wild plum tree is a wondorous thing, it’s location mapped easily in the subconscious. The path to this specific tree included plenty of distractions and misleading clues, as we passed many other trees heavy with fruit.
When we reached the destination though we were left in no doubt that this was the heralded tree and we filled the remaining space in our baskets and bags.
We have Woofers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) on The Food Farm and they also get roped into helping. You can tell a lot about a Wwoofer based on their enthusiasm for foraging!
With sticky fingers and satiated taste buds there was time for a wade in the Waipara River. All in all pretty much our definition of a perfect afternoon.
Wild Plum Tart
Much smaller than the domesticated plum the best way to get the stones out of wild plums is to use a cherry stoner. It’s not perfect but it gets you through. For this fiddly reason wild plums are often turned into sauce, but these ones deserved some special treatment.
This recipe is a version of a Donna Hay one. I love uncooked tarts for summer fruit. Serendipitously a friend, Kate McMillan, had given us some mascarpone she had made from her cow’s milk. So this tart was obviously meant to happen.
Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
1 ½ cups (225g) plain four
125g cold butter, chopped
½ cup (80g) icing sugar
3 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon iced water
Combine the flour, butter and icing sugar in a food processor until it resembles fine breadcrumbs (short bursts works well). Then, with the motor running, add the egg yolks and vanilla. Add just enough iced water to allow the dough to just come together.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and bring together to form a ball. Flatten into a disk, wrap and refrigerate for an hour, or up to a day.
Preheat the oven to 180 Celsius. Roll the pastry out to 3mm. Doesn’t really matter if it breaks as you lift it into a greased loose bottom pie/flan tin as you can just patch it together. Trim, but leave some space at the top as it always shrinks, prick base with a fork. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Ok, I always forget this bit and it seems to turn out anyway, but if you’re a rule follower then refrigerate!
Line the pastry with baking paper and some baking weights or rice. Bake for 10 minutes then remove the paper and weights and bake for 10 more minutes. Cool.
½ cup (80g) icing sugar
2 tablespoons finely grated rind (note: if shop bought lemons scrub to remove wax first)
About 40-50 wild plums (or other fresh fruit)
Just mix the mascarpone, icing sugar and lemon rind together. Fill the tart case. Put the fruit on top. Couldn’t be easier!