Fruits in season
When I first arrived in Germany and began shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables in our local German grocery store – what struck me was just how fresh all of the produce truly was. It was asparagus (Spargel) season and the produce bins were overflowing with fat stalks of both green and white asparagus. Roadside stands sprung to life – featuring, you guessed it, more Spargel!
The weekend after our arrival we discovered a local spring festival, SpargelFest, complete with a Spargel Queen and a plethora of all-things-asparagus to eat. (The white Spargelsuppe is still my favorite.) That’s when it dawned on us; food and seasons are everything here.
In Germany, seasonal shopping is not only a way of life – it is life itself. It’s a cause for celebration. The community appreciates the brief seasonal appearance of a fresh harvest and relishes it. Locals know that their supermarkets don’t stock everything year-round. Want fresh strawberries in December? Nope. Not happening. You can choose from either frozen or canned, but locals know you certainly won’t find any fresh ones in the winter. They simply aren’t in season.
Which is why when the fresh, seasonal fruits appear – you should bring an extra shopping bag to snap them up!
The hot, humid days (along with a whole lot of summer rain) means it’s time for a bounty of fruit. Blackberries (Brombeeren), peaches (Pfirsich), nectarines (Nektarinen) and greengages (Renekloden) are in season.
What are greengages?
This was a fruit I’d never heard of until moving to Germany. Apparently – we’ve been missing out in the U.S. on this little beauty! The New York Times described them as “the best fruit in the world.” When Mark Twain traveled to Germany in 1878 – he dubbed them the “pleasantest fruit in Germany.”
Germans simply call them “the queen of the plums.”
Greengages are stone fruits, meaning they feature a large, center pit – similar to a peach or apricot – but are far sweeter, and taste like honey. In fact, when the Brix (or sugar content) is measured for greengages – the reading is typically 30.5! For a reference point, sweet grapes average 20-23 on the Brix scale. A greengage is one sweet fruit!
With a floral aroma, a delightfully sweet taste and a firm, yet tender texture – greengages lend themselves to a variety of preparation methods. Summer crisps and cobblers, jams, Danishes and cakes – if you find greengages in your grocery store, get ready for a treat!
For an easy dessert, try this recipe for a Summer Fruit Crisp. Greengages would be wonderful in it, but you can also substitute them for whatever seasonal fruit you prefer and what’s available in a store near you.
Summer Fruit Crisp
A crisp, also known as a crumble, consists of two parts: the topping and your choice of filling. The topping is super-quick and easy to make, as is the filling. The lemon juice in the filling is essential as it brightens the flavor of the dessert, as is the cornstarch – which will thicken the filling and help give it structure.
The following recipe is for an 8x8 baking dish, but it could easily be doubled into a 9x13 dish.
• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 cup oats (Quaker oats are perfect)
• 3/4 cup brown sugar
• 1 tsp cinnamon
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 6 oz butter, melted
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 3 cups greengage plums, halved, pitted and sliced. (Substitutions: Or 3 cups peaches, nectarines or berries)
• Juice 1/2 lemon (About 2 TBS)
• 1/2 cup sugar*
• 1 TB cornstarch
*Note: You may need more or less sugar, depending on how sweet your fruit is. Sample your fruit first and adjust sugar as needed.
1. Preheat oven to 350F (that’s 176.6 Celsius).
2. In a large bowl, add flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and stir to combine.
3. Pour the melted butter and vanilla over the flour mixture and blend with a fork until all the dry ingredients are moistened.
4. Lightly grease (or use cooking spray) the bottom of an 8x8 baking dish.
5. Place the plums in the bottom of the baking dish and gently toss them with lemon juice.
6. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch and sprinkle it over the plums. Stir gently to combine.
7. Sprinkle the crumble topping evenly over the fruit.
8. Bake for 50 minutes until browned on top and the filling is oozing.
9. Optional – This dish is delicious served warm with ice cream.
If you have any leftovers – cover the dish and store it on the countertop, there’s no need for refrigeration.
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