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What am I going to do with these plums?

Garlic Gulch Legacy

by Mikala Woodward, Excerpted from Rainier Valley Food Stories Cookbook

Many Italian families – like many other Rainier Valley residents at that time -- raised their own vegetables and fruits in their gardens. Vincent’s grandmother “raised garlic, onions, peppers, tomatoes. Round the edge of the garden there was a big fence, and in that fence was raspberries. Oh man! In the middle of that there garden was a pear tree. And oh! It used to produce pears, I’m gonna tell you that. Then she had five great big cherry trees. Oh man! And one great big Italian prune tree. They would pick the prunes and they’d bring them down to the store and they’d sell them for a pretty good price. Real tasty.”

Many of those prune trees – Italian plums -- are still there: the living heritage of the old “Garlic Gulch” neighborhood. And they are still feeding Rainier Valley neighbors. Phyllis Macay moved to Mount Baker in 1994 and bought a house with seven Italian plum trees in the yard. She came up with a delicious way to enjoy the fruit:

“There seems to be no bugs that attack ‘em. I don’t even water ‘em or anything, and they’re really, really pretty, and very, very sweet. Two years ago, I got a million plums and I had no idea what to do with them. I gave them away to everybody. I mean, what am I going to do with these plums? I didn’t just wanna let them rot. I made a Chinese plum sauce. I tried to make plum pies, but that didn’t work – they’re too moist. Plum with pork is really good, but how many times can you make a pork roast?

“I had already been experimenting with this bread. I called it my Soon To Be Famous Plum Bread, and now all my friends, when I go to a party they say “Bring your plum bread!” There is no fat at all in it. Yet it’s rich and it’s good. You can make it sweet and not so sweet. If I don’t put any sugar in it at all, it’s still really sweet ‘cause the plums are so sweet. It’s a great dessert; it’s a great breakfast.”



Phyllis Macay

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1 1/2 cup plums, chopped

  • 1/2 cup dried fruit – cranberries or raisins

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour

  • 1/2 cup unbleached flour

  • 2 Tbsp Wheat germ

  • 1 tsp each baking soda, salt, and nutmeg

  • 1 1/2 tsp each baking powder and ground fresh ginger

  • 1 cup shredded raw carrots

  • 1 cup chopped nuts

  • 1 Tbsp vanilla

  • 2 eggs

Mix sugar, plums, and dried fruit. Set aside. Mix flours, wheat germ, soda, salt, nutmeg, baking powder, and ginger. Set aside. Lightly coat 2 bread pans with cooking spray. Dust with flour. Mix plums into flour mixture well; add carrots and nuts; add vanilla and eggs. Stir well. Pour into pans. Top with whole halves of nuts. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes.

Cool, then wrap in wax paper. Wait for 24 hours, enjoy or freeze.



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