Monday, 21 March 2011

A touch of Pickle?

Behind the longère, a spiny shrub is in full flower. This is a sucker from the rootstock of the old plum tree, which we've allowed to grow. There's another specimen just the same in the orchard, but with no other prunus species anywhere near, and until now we thought it was a blackthorn, like so many other of our bird-sown trees. We have now identified this shrub as a cherry plum or myrobalan, prunus cerasifera (i.e. the plum that bears cherries). Myrobalan is widely used as a rootstock for plum trees. It has edible (sour) fruit rather like a sloe, but bigger and round, and it makes great sloe gin. If you think you're seeing blackthorn in flower right now, it's a cherry plum. The blackthorn won't be out for another three weeks.

OK, there's an obvious reason why we have a cherry plum behind the longère - the old plum. So where did the one in the orchard come from? We think it dates from our first planting, a mirabelle from the nursery that used to be near the Weldom store in Descartes. This tree got whacked when Richard mowed the field later in the year, and we thought no trace of it remained. When we planted the tree, we scattered a pinch of the ashes of our old tabby cat, Pickle, who died at the age of 19 years, blind and senile but still beautiful in her stripes. She was a tough old girl, and a reminder of her will always be with us. We hope to drink her health in sloe gin, maybe next year (don't count your sloes until they're ripe! But you can make a very nice drink from some young shoots, brandy and wine called Epine Noire - more on this later!!)

Prunus cerasifera... Cherry Plum. a close-up of "Pickle's" blossom
 For a full sized picture of Pickle in bloom visit Aigronne Valley Wildlife.


Jean said...

Is Epine Noire legal? In fact is sloe gin legal - I am never sure.

What a lovely reminder of a beloved pet. We have a small shrub (not sure what it is but it has lovely white flowers) that we planted when we had to have our previous poodle destroyed prematurely - due to damage to her spine caused by ill-treatment by her previous owners. We call it "Dusty's tree" and it reminds us fondly of her.

Tim said...

Epine Noire is perfectly legal, as is Sloe Gin. Neither product is distilled... both, like Cherry Brandy, are made from an infusion of the major ingredient in a strong alcohol.
The resultant strength is about 18 to 20% ABV.
We don't actually make Sloe Gin any more... we use the 55% Martinique dark rum [sucks every bit of flavour out] and make Sloe Rum!! But for Cherry Brandy we use a weak, 36% ABV cheap brandy. The fruit stays nice and crisp for Christmas and you get a weaker, but full flavoured brandy.

I think burying a pet under a tree, or buying and planting a special tree is a right and proper way of remembering them.

Pollygarter said...

Hah! so much for saying the blackthorn won't be out for three weeks. This weather has brought the blackthorn out already, alongside oilseed rape in some places. The cherry plum is well over.

GaynorB said...

A lovely memory Pauline.

It looks like you will be able hold a regular 'toast' in her memory too.....