Pick-Your-Own Happiness

Quetsches Tree

One of the things I love about driving around the countryside with Maxence is that we share the same enthusiasm for anything that’s hand-painted on a wooden sign and planted onto the side of the road. Admittedly, it is the signs advertising edibles and drinkables that receive the most attention, but we also like to think that we could very well stop and visit that tree-root museum or drop by that special mattress sale.

Following such roadside signs is often an exercise in speed, reflexes and agility, as you are generally offered but the one chance to read the instructions correctly, understand how they match what roads and crossroads you find before you, recalculate your vehicle’s route based on that navigation information, and be prepared to make a sharp turn onto that teeny dirt road, possibly at a higher speed than altogether reasonable — all of this in a matter of seconds.

A couple of days ago, while driving just outside Colmar, one such sign urgently piqued our interest : it was pointing the direction of a fruit farm named La Pommeraie, where you could either buy some of their crop, or pick your own — blueberries in particular.

This sounded like a lot of fun and both of us had always wanted to do such a thing, so we followed the signs and were led to the pick-your-own blueberry fields. No attendant was there, but we read the instructions on a panel, picked up a bucket each, and started working our way through the alleys of blueberry shrubs.

Berry-picking — it’s funny how quickly one learns that kind of skill : at first, you have a hard time spotting the berries, but soon enough your eyes get accustomed to the color contrast and it gets easier to find the branches that are heavy with fruit, and beside which you can just crouch for a few minutes and pick handfuls of plump little berries. And the better you’re at it, the more exciting it gets, as your bounty visibly grows and visions of blueberry tarts and blueberry coffee cakes dance before your eyes. (It is also a surefire way to catch a sunburn on your shoulders, trust me.) We were at it for about forty minutes or so before we decided we had more than enough, and headed back in the direction of the farm.

That’s when we saw a section that had first escaped our attention, the pick-your-own plum trees — dozens upon dozens of beautiful leafy trees, positively laden with quetsches and mirabelles. This was an utterly, utterly magical experience for me : I adore plums, quetsches and mirabelles are my two favorite kinds, and this was the first time I had ever seen them directly on the tree, ripe, juicy, and there for the taking.

It may sound a bit strange, after all where did I think plums came from, but I grew up in the city so this was never a part of my world, and I hadn’t quite realized the sheer profusion of ripe fruit a tree could bear. I felt like I had been set free in the Garden of Eden, running from tree to tree, looking up in amazement and plucking clumps of these beauties. The purple quetsches with their pointy bottoms, covered with a thin white dust, an unmistakable sign that they’ve been freshly picked, and which you rub off with your thumb before you bite into the plum and savor the golden flesh, sweet and tart with a slight crunch. The pretty mirabelles, yellow with orange hues and delicate freckles, which you pop into your mouth, where their soft flesh practically melts and leaves you with just the tiny stone.

We picked dozens of them, piling them into our bucket and sampling them like we couldn’t believe they were for real, until we had enough to make another three or four desserts and thought okay, it’s just the two of us, that should do.

We returned to the main farm building, they weighed our crop (2 kilos of blueberries at 3 €/kg, and 2 kilos of plums at 1 €/kg — a steal when you’re accustomed to paying four times as much), and we also bought a few bottles of their delicious artisanal apple juice, unfiltered and incredibly tasty.

I made a blueberry tart yesterday (which Maxence said was de la tuerie, the French for a killer tart) and we have a blueberry coffee cake cooling as we speak. Both of them were as loaded with blueberries as I could possibly make them, and we still have about 700g to go…

La Pommeraie
Famille Gsell
CD 10 – Sigolsheim
03 89 78 25 66

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  • Olivier

    Gosh…. This reminds me how much I miss mirabelles… we used to have them growing in our back garden…

    It’s a real shame they are so hard (impossible ?) to find in London !!

  • http://gastroblog.com Jackie D

    What beautiful plums, too! One of my favourite C&Z photos ever.

  • http://nia.typepad.com Nia

    The photos and post were so incredible that I contemplated jumping on my private jet and immediately flying to La Pommeraie to pick blueberries and plums and filling my oven with delicious sweet baked goodies. I can dream can’t I? :)

  • http://shewhoeats.blogspot.com/ chika

    Hi Clotilde,

    That photo of quetsch trees is really beautiful – I believe quetsches are like prunes? I adore them fresh! I haven’t had them yet this year, I really should before they’re gone.
    Mirabelles, unfortunately, I have never have them fresh yet… I haven’t even seen them before. I wish they’re available around here!

    Excited to see how the rest of berries and plums turn out into something good
    :)

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/tea_cantata/ nattie

    Quetsches = what I know from my childhood as Zwetschgen, presumably? They are *so* nice! Must investigate getting hold of some at some point…

  • kelli ann

    i don’t know if you ever listen to NPR, but there’s an interesting feature coming up on how communities come together through food. i think food blogs and IMBB definitely are part of that for me; not sure if the stories are specifically about U.S. stories/listeners… here’s a link:

    Hidden Kitchens:  Your Kitchen Stories Wanted

    http://www.npr.org/features/feature.php?wfId=3070045

  • asha

    this picture is beautiful, clotilde! it almost made me cry.

  • http://www.dymolove.com izan

    wow, those blueberry shrubs sure look huge! entirely different from the ones in the swedish woods!

    my nana gave me a whole bunch of blueberries and strawberries today to freeze, mmmm smoothies here i come!

  • http://www.20six.de/Chili_und_Ciabatta Petra

    Hello Clotilde,

    Beautiful photo of the Quetsch tree – nearly the same colour as our blue grapes in Ticino/Switzerland :-) http://www.20six.de/Chili_und_Ciabatta/archive/2004/09/06/1kbjtn1odt1xy.htm

  • Jenny

    Let me add that the closest thing to heaven is a fresh warm sesame bagel with fresh sweet butter

    sigh

  • http://herebesubtlety.com Jamie

    I think quetsches are called “Zwetschgen” in German. Or think that what we call “Zwetschgen” is the same as your quetsches.

    It just struck me as funny, because quetsches seems like such an un-french word, and the German equivalent is so very much alike.

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Jamie – I believe “quetsche” is an Alsacian word, so it’s not all that surprising that it sounds like the German equivalent!

  • http://talktalk Barri de Bechi

    Hi, Last year I found a Mirabelle tree nearby whilst out picking elderberries for wine making. My wife Mary-Florence, identified the fruit and after I had collected a bucketful, made the most delicious jan (Confiture)
    I am now watching for the fruits to ripen for gathering.
    Barri de Bechi
    Nobile di Firenze
    Westgate-on-Sea
    England

  • Barri de Bechi

    Bountiful harvest of Mirabelles this year, were falling off trees into lanes in the Stour valley.
    Sent 5lb to my sister in Scotland, large bucket to another sister who lives along road at Deal and Mary-Florence made loads of preserve.

  • http://talktalk Barri de Bechi

    Noticed today that the Mirabelle trees along the road arey! already in blossom and it’s still januar

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