I grew up surrounded by orchards in the Vale of Evesham. My folks were into the market gardening thing, owning a hillside of apple, plum and pear trees. The produce of these was either sold on our little farmshop, or went into making jam or a particularly vicious form of scrumpy (bad for the head, good for getting your five portions of fruit and veg, great for quickly flushing out your system).
Summers for me, at what would now be an illegally-young age, were spent picking fruit, weighing it and selling it. It left me with an appreciation for growing things that you eat. Plus knowledge; my crowning achievement in pub quizzes was grabbing victory for our university team by knowing the names of twelve varieties of plum.
So it was with some amazement that, while shopping in MacLennans in Benbecula, Outer Hebrides a few weeks ago, I came across Victoria plums, from the Vale. To be more precise, from an orchard near the village of Cropthorne. Here's some of what was bought:
The Victoria is not my favourite plum - that would be the Marjorie Seedling (singular), which is large and purple and full of flavour, tending to crop when the Victoria and other early to mid season plums are mostly gone. However, the "Vic" is still a likeable plum and is the most well-known variety, being enduringly popular for its sweetness and appearance as the typical traditional plum. Through the 70's, 80's and 90's, we would sell thousands of 6 pound "chips" (baskets) of these to tourists and passing people. Odd, but you rarely see them sold in that unit size now - people usually buy a few plums in a plastic bag, rather than several pounds in one go.
After tracking down the owner of the orchard in the Vale where the bought and photographed plums came from, an email was sent off. We're now conversing online, which is kinda strange, bearing in mind he lives and works in the part of the world I grew up in. And how were his Victoria plums? Excellent - large, at the right level of ripeness, and as sweet as you can get. Plum bliss.