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.

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


  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

Recipes to make use of underripe fruit

Knowing when to harvest is easy with some plants. Tomatoes aren’t usually a problem, and green tomatoes are usually more of a fall gardening issue, but we had a couple tomatoes that were knocked off a plant before they ripened. Someone recommended pickling!

Working off this recipe, I scaled it down a lot, as these two tomatoes were only about 3 ounces total. They fit in a 8 ounce jar perfectly.

Green Tomato Pickles

3 oz tomatoes
1 small garlic clove
¼ cup white vinegar
¼ cup water
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
¼ tsp black peppercorns
pinch red pepper flakes
½ tsp bourbon

  1. Slice the tomatoes, either into ¼-inch thick slices, or halve them and cut into 8-10 wedges. Pack the tomatoes tightly in each jar, and place a few slices of garlic and a few fronds of dill in each jar.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, water, salt, sugar, peppercorns, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and add bourbon.
  3. Pour brine over pickles, filling jar to within ¼-inch of the top. Make sure all of the tomatoes are fully submerged. If they start to float, wedge a few more tomato pieces in there to keep them firmly packed.
  4. Screw on jar lid and refrigerate for at least 3 days to allow pickles to fully pickle, and after that pickles will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

On the other hand, it was harder to tell if our first watermelon was ripe or not. Cutting it open revealed white flesh, with just a blush of red beginning to form. Unripened watermelon tastes strangely similar, it’s just that none of the sugar has developed, so it isn’t sweet at all. I took to the internet again and found several good ideas.

I went with a White Watermelon Spritzer:

  1. Puree the watermelon flesh and strain out the seeds.
  2. Muddle some mint leaves in a glass with about a teaspoon of powdered sugar, and add some crushed ice.
  3. Pour in the watermelon puree, optionally add a shot your alcohol of choice (I went with a jasmine liqueur I’ve been experimenting with), and top it off with seltzer. It’s a light, refreshing drink and not too sweet!

White watermelon drink


Lemon balm recipes for hot days

Prospect Farm has been fortunate to have a great crop of herbs growing in our raised beds, containers, and interspersed here and there in the in-ground growing plots between tomatoes or kale plants. Before I left the farm after our work day yesterday, I snipped some several sprigs of what I thought was mint, but turned out to be lemon balm.


If you’re not familiar with lemon balm, it’s an herb in the mint family that looks quite a lot like spearmint but has a delicate lemony fragrance and flavor. When I was growing up it grew like a weed around our house, but we rarely used it except for an occasional garnish on a glass of iced tea. But there is much more you can do with lemon balm. It’s lemony-minty flavor makes it perfect for refreshing beverages and cocktails, like the Honey Lemon Balm Spritzer, Lemon Balm Martini or the ridiculously good-sounding Rhubarb Lemon Balm Spritzer.

Here’s our own recipe for Lemon Balm Simple Syrup. As the name suggests, it’s an incredibly easy way to try out lemon balm and has many uses: stir into carbonated water to make a soda, add to lemonade or iced tea, use as a mixer in cocktails, or drizzle onto vanilla ice cream.


1 cup water

1 cup sugar

6 sprigs lemon balm

Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until sugar dissolves completely, about one minute. Remove from heat. Immediately add lemon balm sprigs to the mixture, pressing gently on leaves with a spoon to muddle them a little. Allow to sit for about 15 minutes, then strain the syrup into a glass jar. Store in the fridge up to two weeks.

Note: This recipe works well with a number of herbs, including mint, lavender, and rosemary.


More fun with tomatoes / Harvest Week 5

Mark Bittman has a series of recipes designed to make the most of summer’s best tomatoes. Good thing, because we’re still raking them in, though the rate is beginning to slow down.

This week we harvested:

  • Cherry tomatoes: 16.25 lbs
  • Tomatoes: 52 lbs
  • Zucchini: 9.25 lbs
  • Winter squash: 15.75 lb
  • Kale: 1.55 lb
  • Purple kale: 0.7 lb
  • Broccoli: 0.5 lb
  • Broccolini: 0.45 lb
  • Cucumber: 1 lb
  • Basil: Fraction of an ounce

My harvest take this week

Garden Pickled Green Beans

I posted this recipe on my blog Cantaloupe Alone at the end of the last season. I took all the vegetbles left in plot 4 (the plot I shared with Andrea) and pickled them before planting cold weather crops. The results were delicious chopped up in salads, a garnish to bloody marys, or as a snack.

Garden Jar Pickled Beans 

2 1/3 cups water
2 tblsp salt
1 1/2 tblsp sugar
2 1/2 tblsp white wine vinegar
2 peeled garlic cloves, smashed
1 hot pepper, quartered
1 inch lemon zest
1 handful garden herbs
1/2 lb string beans

I did a variation of this pickled bean earlier in the year. I made the mistake of boiling beans with the liquid. The beans became mushy when I was after a crunchy pickle. I suggest boiling the water, salt,vinegar and sugar in a sauce pan and pouring into a clean mason jar on top of the garlic cloves, hot pepper, lemon zest, and herbs. The hot water will dissolve the salt and sugar while bringing out the flavor in the herbs.


Cool the jar until no longer steaming, 20-30 minutes, and add the beans. Screw lid on, and shake vigorously. Let sit for 2-4 days until beans have a zesty tang. I like to sample part of a bean every day to see how the flavors are developing. Store in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.

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Jessie Steadman’s Winning Soup from Harvest Fest Soup Cook-Off

It was a tough day to be a soup maker. Prospect Farm’s Harvest Fest 2010 saw 10 great soups. Jessie Steadman’s Barley Soup took first place by the judges. Robin Wellington (cauliflower and blue cheese) and Oren Yaniv (Jerusalem Artichoke) tied for second place. Serena took the people’s choice for her Turkey and root vegetable soup. Judge Brandon Maya wrote a great review on her blog of all the soups. Thanks to all the competitors, judges, tasters. The winning soup recipe is below.

Barley Soup with Local Greens, Dill and Feta


  • 4 cups water
  • 8 cups (or more)
  • 1 cup pearl barley, rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt plus additional, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 bunch coarsely chopped kale leaves (remove center stem)
  • 1 bunch coarsely chopped swiss chard (remove center stem)
  • 5 cups spinach leaves (remove any tough stems)
  • 3/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh fennel fronds (these are hard to find – I got them finally at Eataly – my farmer was out, but usually he does leave the frond on)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (or more, if you like this flavor – I added 1 more T. the morning after I had made it the night before)
  • 1 7-ounce package feta cheese, crumbled


  • Bring 4 cups water, 2 cups broth, barley, and 1 scant teaspoon sea salt to boil in large pot. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until tender, about 40 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, sprinkle with sea salt, and sauté until golden brown, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Add sautéed onions and remaining 6 cups broth to pot with barley. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, cover, and chill. Rewarm before continuing.
  • Add kale and chard to soup. Simmer until greens are tender, about 15 minutes. Add spinach, green onions, dill, fennel fronds; simmer 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Season soup with sea salt, pepper, and additional lemon juice, thinning with more broth, if desired.
  • Divide soup among bowls. Sprinkle feta cheese to serve.

It was so much fun and seemed like a great day for the community!