These little beauties are cherry plums, also known as Myrobalan (latin name: Prunus cerasifera), which are the first of the plums to fruit in the UK.
The tree is not native, coming originally from southern Europe and Asia, but it has naturalised widely here and can often be found growing in hedgerows and wild places. It tends to grow in thickets and sometimes hybridizes with sloe so that you may come across a rainbow of different fruit sizes and colours, as in the photo. The garden plums we all know so well are thought to have descended from one of these natural sloe/cherry plum hybrids.
The dark purple-leafed variety is often planted as a small ornamental tree in streets and parks – you see them everywhere – and the fruit is also dark.
So, the fruit is small but it is early and I was in need! Fruit season is just starting to ramp up and I have yet to stock the freezer so I am still working with what I can find right now. Anyway, I like the fact that the ‘cheese’ I’m selling is seasonal at the moment. After spending some time gathering enough to work with (there is a good reason it is called a cherry plum – the fruit really are not much bigger than cherries!) I did a pectin test (good) and acid test (also good) and off we went. This was the first time I had tried making fruit cheese with this fruit but I’m pretty happy with the result. Oh, and what a colour!