If I were to ask you: “Have you ever had a drupe?”, would you:
a) tell me you’d never been so offended in your life and storm off in a huff;
b) tell me that there are little blue pills you can take for that these days;
c) say yes, it was the best thing you’d ever had in your mouth; or
d) look at me with blank incomprehension?
The correct answer would, of course, be… c) (get your minds out of the gutter!) because drupe, rather than being a genus or species classification, is a collective term for any fleshy fruits with a thin skin and a single central stone or seed. Although we tend to think of stone fruits as things we traditionally find in the fruit bowl, drupes also include things like pistachios, almonds, coffee and even coconuts. But probably the best known stone fruits are plums, peaches, nectarines and apricots – and recently I received a beautiful sample of South African stone fruits to try. The nectarines were smooth and plump; the yellow-fleshed peaches were fragrant and sweet – but what really caught my eye were the magnificent plums. For a start, they were enormous – about the same size as the nectarines! But even more remarkable was their deep crimson flesh and their intensely perfumed sweetness.
While reading up on these exceptional plums I found all sorts of nuggets that interested me. For example, did you know that plums are grown on every continent except Antarctica? Or that compared to their close relatives peaches, nectarines and apricots, plums come in a far wider range of shapes, sizes and especially skin colors (think of bright yellow mirabelle plums compared to the almost blue purple of damsons)? Or that plums can be divided into 2 distinct groups that are known as Japanese plums and European plums? European plums or Prunus domestica have freestone pits (meaning the stone can easily be removed once the fruit is cut open) and are suitable for drying to make prunes; while Japanese plums or Prunus salicina are clingstone (the flesh clings to the stone, like a mango) and are almost always eaten fresh because of their more delicate texture and lower sugar content. Plums also contain the powerful antioxidants anthocyanin and quercetin, as well as sorbitol which can produce laxative effects – but this is far more concentrated in prunes!
But what about these gloriously coloured plums? They are technically not true plums but pluots, a hybrid of a plum and an apricot. There has been natural cross-pollination between these species for millennia but it was only in the late 19th century that plant breeder Luther Burbank successfully crossed plums and apricots to create new commercially viable fruits. He called these 50/50 plum and apricot hybrids plumcots but they proved to be tricky to grow, harvest and ship. Further research by breeders focussed on back-crossing the plumcot hybrids with plums to create more complex hybrids with varying genetic ratios or plum to apricot – and so the pluot was born (around 60% plum and 40% apricot). This particular variety is called Flavor King, identifiable as much by their deep purple skin and vibrant red flesh as their super-sweet “bubblegum” flavour. Trust me when I say you have never tasted plums as spectacularly sweet as these babies – and how can you resist that incredibly beautiful red flesh?
Having already wolfed down one of these beautiful plums fresh, I decided to combine the remaining two with South African peaches to make a healthier version of a classic crumble – behold the flapjack crumble! Flapjacks are a classic English treat, made with rolled oats, butter and brown sugar and I took this as my inspiration to create a crumble topping packed with oats, seeds and nuts. Instead of flour to bind the mixture, I added ground almonds which proved to be a game changer in terms of improving the consistency of an oat-based crumble topping. To the oats, I added pumpkin and sesame seeds as well as flaked almonds, but you could substitute whatever seeds or nuts you have to hand. For the filling, I added a Granny Smith apple to the mix to add a little bit of structure and a handful of blueberries that I happened to have in my fridge – feel free to get creative. The end result was fantastic, packed with juicy sweet fruit flavours and with a nutty and deliciously crunchy topping – which is naturally gluten-free and far higher in fibre and nutrients than a traditional crumble topping.
I have written previously about why buying South African stone fruit is an ethical option so I won’t repeat all of that here, but in brief, South African stone fruit is counter-seasonal (in season when no European stone fruit is); 90% of the fruit is shipped rather than air-freighted, reducing the carbon footprint; and buying South African fruit creates jobs in the deciduous fruit industry in South Africa. The industry employs a third of a million people (nearly 30% of total employment in agriculture) and every farm worker has, on average, 4 dependents that rely on the fruit industry to provide education, housing, health and social care. South African stone fruit is available in all major UK supermarkets from December to May – so catch their deliciousness while you can!
Looking for more stone fruit recipes? You will love…
- Plum, Serrano ham and mozzarella salad
- Nectarine and plum galette
- Mirabelle plum & cardamom fool
- Easy peach, almond & ginger cobbler
- Apricot clafoutis
And in case you are wondering, that gorgeous silver spoon is from Jennifer’s Cutlery – a treasure trove of beautiful vintage silver cutlery and tableware.
- 2 large ripe red-fleshed plums
- 2 ripe peaches
- firm apple (I used a Granny Smith)
- 1 handful blueberries (optional)
- 1 Tbsp (heaped) cornflour/cornstarch
- 25 g butter
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 2 Tbsp (heaped) ground almonds
- 2 Tbsp slivered/flaked almonds
- 2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds
- 1 Tbsp sesame seeds
- 1 Tbsp (heaped) soft brown sugar
- 0.25 tsp ground cinnamon
- 75 g butter
Pre-heat the oven to 180C and grease an oven-proof dish
Chop the fruit into bite-sized chunks (peeling the apple is optional) and place in a saucepan with the blueberries (if using), butter and cornflour.
Heat gently and stir until the butter has melted and the stone fruit has softened a little but still keeps its shape. Transfer the fruit mix to the greased oven-proof dish
For the topping, combine all the ingredients and mix well. Spread evenly over the top of the fruit in the dish.
Bake covered with foil for about 25 minutes, then remove the foil and continue to bake for another 10 minutes or so until the topping is golden and the filling is beginning to bubble up around the edges.
Serve hot with whipped cream or creme fraiche.
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DISCLOSURE: I received a sample of South African stone fruit from the Hortgro growers’ association but received no further remuneration to write this post. I was not expected to write a positive review – all views are my own and I retain full editorial control.
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