Yeah! It is that time of year! The hog plums, most commonly known as "hobos" (the "H" is silent) are ripe and dropping to the ground.
This little fruit has a unique taste which may be described as a cross between peach, orange and a red plum, but I'm not an expert when it comes to sorting out flavors. It is something I look forward to every year. Around August/September the fruit ripens and falls from the tree. The plums are about 1" to 2"in circumference and bright orange-yellow in color. The first time I drank the juice on the island, I was bowled over. So now, every year, I anxiously wait for our 7 hog plum trees to start dropping fruit. I was informed too that this fruit is exclusive to the island as no one on the mainland had seemed to hear of it. Yet, again, maybe they call it something else.
The trees are really tall, so picking the fruit is out of the question. As you can see, in the photo above, the hobo tree, the one in the middle, is quite tall. The branches are at least 30-40 feet from the ground. Of course, one or two of my trees are not full grown but picking this fruit is not my choice, as the ground will become covered with them in a short period of time. Below is a photo of the beginning of the dropping of the fruit, with a few plums on the ground.
Of course, as in all fruit on the island, it is mostly seed and it takes a lot of these little suckers to make enough for a half-gallon of liquid sunshine! My worker will bring me sacks of these fruit for me to wash and then squeeze.
The women of the island put them in a huge bucket or pan with water and then squeeze them with their hands, which becomes very time intensive and laborious. I have two ways of doing it. One, I can put them in a "V" shaped colander and then smash them with a wooden mallet that is specifically shaped for the colander. Or, two, I can place it in the top of my huge kettle that has a special insert for steaming the fruit and collecting the juice in the bottom. Depending upon how many hog plums I have in a day will determine which method I choose.
Of course, then my day is devoted to juicing the plums. Once I have obtained the juice, it is just a matter of placing it in Zip Loc bags for freezing. I once made jelly with the juice, but since we don't consume a lot of jelly at our house, I do not do that anymore. I still make a jar or two and like to make it up like a hot pepper jelly to use with cream cheese on crackers. Yummm!
One year I decided to sell the juice already prepared and packed in Zip Loc bags. Everyone was very enthusiastic about wanting some; not so enthusiastic about paying for it! The second year there were less buyers and I decided it was not worth my time and trouble to try selling it on the Cay, even though people still ask about it. They figure if it grows free here, why should they pay for it even though someone has done all the work for them!
If you ever get to Guanaja this time of year, remember to get some Hobo Juice, a/k/a Hog Plum Juice. Or, stop by my house and enjoy a ice cold glass of a taste you won't forget!