I'm pretty sure that if the citizens of Lalor so chose, they could supply half of Melbun with backyard fruit. Nextdoor's got a giant fig tree much beloved by late January fruitbats. Also: an apple, a lemon, a gorgeous apricot. The other nextdoor has a plum and a nectarine. Nextdoor next to nextdoor has packed an orchard into 200 square metres: an almond, a mulberry, peaches, plums, nectarines, citruses of various hues, an olive. Nextdoor to them is a loquat, a huge sprawling plum, and one of those funny perennial capsicums. Nextdoor to them is a forty-year-old grape trellis, another loquat, a lemon, blah blah, fruity-fruit-and-more-fruit.
The nextdoor with the apricot was recently vacated by our neighbour, whose landlord whacked up a "for lease" sign that was promptly tagged in spraypaint by one of the local artists. For a week before Christmas, I watched hungrily the apricot tree, hoping, in my not-very-sympathetic-to-landlords way, that the house would still be untenanted a fortnight later when the apricots ripened. It is, and I am a dab hand with a ladder, and therefore:
APRICOTS! Stolen from next door with complete sangfroid! Je ne regrette rien (except perhaps depriving the rampaging rainbow lorikeets, who seem to like nibbling a quarter of an apricot before moving on to another).
Our own much younger apricot tree is on the cusp of fructifering. It's a slightly later ripener, a Moorpark, much vaunted by fruit tree vendors for its cameo in Mansfield Park:
“Sir, it is a moor park, we bought it as a moor park …”
“You were imposed on, ma’am,” replied Dr. Grant; “these potatoes have as much the flavour of a moor park apricot, as the fruit from that tree. It is an insipid fruit at the best; but a good apricot is eatable, which none from my garden are.”
“The truth is, ma’am,” said Mrs. Grant, pretending to whisper across the table to Mrs. Norris, “that Dr. Grant hardly knows what the natural taste of our apricot is; he is scarcely ever indulged with one, for it is so valuable a fruit, with a little assistance, and ours is such a remarkably large, fair sort, that what with early tarts and preserves, my cook contrives to get them all.”
The Wool Spaniel gave us a box of Fowlers' jars for Christmas, so last night I preserved up a storm with nextdoor's pilfered apricots, and a dollop of honey per jar. (This honey, btw, rather satisfyingly produced by our bees' pillaging the neighbours' fruit-tree blossoms. Gleaners 'r' us.)
Yesterday's achievements in looting needed consolidating, so this morning we set off on a dangling-over-back-fences-fruit nicking expedition. This is a perfectly moral and time-honoured activity. Wasteliness is next to ungodliness, quoth the famous quother. Also, food security crisis. And rotting fruit is a European wasp hazard. And peaches.
Happily for peachy posterity, Cistern Harlot gave me an excellent book of preserving recipes by Eugenia Bone for Christmas. I couldn't quite come at Comrade Bone's Peach Melba jam recipe, because it involves the besmirching of raspberries, and doing anything with raspberries other than immediately gobbling them in their birthday suits should be a criminal offence. But this Butterscotch Peach Jam recipe maketh a damn fine alternative.
Ingredienti: 6 cups peaches scavenged from over backfence within half hour walk from home; 1/3 cup lemon juice from lemons (ditto); 5 cups brown sugar (lawfully procured from local brown sugar purveyor). Then all stirred to bejesus in a pot over medium heat for 35 minutes. Comrade Bone's recipe is slightly more nuanced, but the gist of it's writ herewith.
Ta da! Jammy jam!
The peaches and apricots should be past their prime soon, but there are plums at varying stages of tart green the length and breadth of the land, so there'll be months, or at least weeks, of gathering them in and converting them to supplies. Plum wine, ftw, as the kids say.