Thinning the pluot trees, plus a recipe for Tkemali

Since our fruit trees got pruned this year, we’re seeing an impressive amount of fruit, way more than we’ve ever had, presenting us with a new problem — our pluot tree had branches so heavy with fruit that one even broke! So we learned that we also need to thin fruit from the trees. Aside from avoiding damage to the tree, it also will help the tree bear bigger and tastier fruit, as well as encouraging the tree to “promote an annual fruit set.”

… sometimes plum trees only fruit biennially instead of every year. This is due to the fact that the tree has produced such a copious crop that it’s just plain done and needs an extra season to gather its resources before it can fruit again.

So what to do with all these unripe pluots?

Green pluots

The result of thinning: lots of green pluots!

Jo, one of our trained pruners, was inspired by her friends Carrie Dashow and Suresh Pillai at Atina Foods who make amazing salt pickled “herb jams” and chutney based on South Indian Ayuvedic traditions using their garden in the Catskills.

Tkemali is a sour plum sauce from Georgia (think the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, not southern US). Jo says it’s something they make in huge batches when they have to thin out the orchards, or when the “june drop” happens. They then use it as a condiment all summer. She used this recipe as a guide, which is a lot more specific on the quantities of ingredients and each of the steps, with pics along the way, but you can adjust based on the amount of unripe fruit that you have.

Ingredients:
Unripe green Pluots from our farm
Cilantro and Dill from store (because our herbs aren’t ready to harvest yet)
Green, mildly hot Peppers & Garlic from the Windsor Terrace Food Coop

Preparation:

  1. Finely chop the cilantro, dill, and peppers. Separate the garlic into cloves.
  2. Wash plums and add to a deep pan. Add water until the plums are covered (no more).
  3. Heat on high temperature until the plums are boiled and then reduce temperature to simmer the plums.
  4. Continue to simmer the plums until they are soft.
  5. Remove the plums from the pan and add to a bowl and leave to cool. Put the water left in the pan in a separate bowl.
  6. Crush the chopped coriander and green peppers together. Crush the garlic cloves separately.
  7. Place a sieve over a deep pan and add the cooled plums. Gradually add the plum water that was saved after boiling the plums and firmly press the plums with a wooden spoon. You may need to use your hands to ensure that all of the pulp and juice is strained through the sieve. (This could take a while.)
  8. Discard the plum stones once all of the pulp and juice has been strained into the pan.
  9. Add the cilantro and green pepper mixture, together with the crushed garlic. Add salt (to your preference), stir to thoroughly mix and then heat on a medium temperature.
  10. Taste the sauce and if it is too sour add a little sugar and stir thoroughly. You may need to keep adding and tasting until you’ve balanced the sourness of the plums.
  11. When the sauce has boiled, add the chopped dill. Stir to mix thoroughly and boil the sauce for one minute.
  12. Allow the sauce to cool before bottling or storing in glass containers.

Tkemali sauce can be served with meat, poultry and potato dishes; it has a place in Georgian cuisine similar to tomato ketchup in America.

Finished Tkemali

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