Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Italian Prunes, Oregon History
It is so awesome having dogs. For one thing, they force me to get out and exercise. It helps mitigate the effects of sitting on my duff in front of the computer most of the day, not to mention burning off some of the calories that accrue in writing about food (and, of course, eating it). Plus it gets me out onto the streets where I can survey the latest goings-on from who's remodeling or moving to who's doing some new landscaping (or not).
Dr. Orlando Pleasant Shields Plummer* (right). Not only does he have a really cool name, he was a medical doctor and professor (and the first dean of the medical school at Willamette University), a telegraph operator and a fruit farmer. He was also elected to both the Portland City Council (1865-66) and the Oregon Legislative Assembly (in 1880 and 1882).
An avid horticulturist, he owned a 20-acre fruit farm in Southwest Portland, planting his first prune trees, a variety called Fellenberg, in the late 1850s. By 1927, one source indicates, there were 55,000 acres of Italian prunes growing on farms in Oregon and Clark County, Washington. Obviously some were also planted in parking strips in my neighborhood, and their fruit makes a mighty fine crisp.
Italian Prune Crisp
For the topping:
1 c. flour
3/4 c. uncooked rolled oats
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. melted butter or margarine
For the fruit:
4-6 c. Italian prunes, pitted and quartered
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. water, triple sec or Cointreau
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. vanilla
Mix together dry ingredients in medium sized bowl. Pour in melted butter or margarine and stir with fork to distribute. When well-mixed and crumbly, scatter on top of fruit in pan (below).
Slice fruit into large mixing bowl. Add sugar, water, cornstarch and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Put in 9” by 12” by 2” baking pan. Scatter topping mixture over the top and bake in 350 degree oven for 50 min. to 1 hr.
* The source for this information is from Corning, Howard M. (1989) "Dictionary of Oregon History," Binfords & Mort Publishing, p. 199. Other sources credit nurseryman Henderson Luelling with the introduction of the Italian prune to the state around the same time.