Name a plum, any plum. The chances are you will say Victoria. It’s by far and away the best known variety of English plum. But there are lots of other delicious English plums, both culinary and dessert, which never make it on to our supermarket shelves and deserve to be equally popular.
Orchard Origins visited an orchard near Pershore in Worcestershire to pick some less well-known local varieties and to find out more about the history of the plum orchards that this area was once so famous for.
In the early 1900s plums were the major crop in the Vale of Evesham but competition from cheaper imports caused the industry to decline. Since the end of the Second World War the Vale has lost 80% of its orchards.
We visited the Hipton Hill orchards owned by Vale Landscape Heritage Trust. Like Orchard Origins, the Vale Trust is rejuvenating old orchards to make them productive again as well as trying to raise their profile as important wildlife habitats.
The 70 acre Hipton Hill site was planted in the 1950s as three commercial plum orchards. Set on a gentle slope, the orchards, with their lower growing trees, have quite a different feel to the apple orchards we usually work in.
We were picking two local varieties, the Purple Pershore and the Pershore Yellow Egg, both good culinary plums with a firm flesh that we will use to make jam and chutney.
In their heyday Pershore Plums had been the mainstay of the local plum industry. They are now on Slow Food UK‘s list of Forgotten Foods, a programme that is trying to raise awareness of some of the UK’s small-scale produce that is under threat.
Orchard Origins would love to have access to more soft fruit. If you live in Herefordshire and have some soft fruit trees, or know someone who does, and you would be interested in working with us please get in touch.