When the mystery tree in our yard turned out prolific, we appreciated its
fruits as gifts of the earth, the rain, the sun-and Krsna.
On a dank February day last year, my family and I moved to a rented house. We were glad to be relocated, despite the heavily-trafficked four-lane drive outside our door. In our new home a comfortable distance buffered us from our neighbors, the kids had a front and back yard to roam, and we had trees for summer shade: evergreens and a dogwood in the front, maples and oaks behind, and on the far side of the driveway-well, we didn't know what it was. After a few months it carried longish, pointy leaves.
In June we half-anticipated a quick trip to the local hospital for stomach pumping when the children insisted on eating the abundant green, olive like fruits our mystery tree produced. Then in July the olivey things got bigger and turned red. Then dark red. Then purple.
Branches that had angled up twelve or fifteen feet bowed now, laden with fruit.
I thought of plum pudding, plum pie, plum jam, plum nectar, plum jelly, plum preserves, plum ice cream. And they remained pleasant thoughts when, after my morning walks, I'd pick the biggest plums, wash them, offer them to Krsna, and eat them with breakfast, amazed at their juiciness, sweetness, and silky softness.
When we went visiting, we'd bring a bag of plums. (Were we getting more invitations than usual?) Neighbors came over and filled up a box to take home now and again. When someone did us a favor, we'd invite them to take some plums for their family. When some friends and I went to the park, we munched plums under the night sky. On Lord Balarama's appearance day, I got the longest ladder in the house and bagged the most delectable fruits for His offering. And still the tree was laden. When I walked under it to find ripe plums, my shoes would become purple from scrunching the juicy plum-carpet
Finally, around mid-August, after we'd bagged a bunch for Janmastami (Lord Krsna's appearance day), I noticed that our tree was gradually straightening up, like someone slowly rising after bending over. And by the last week of the month, it stood as before: a dozen dried-up plums dangled like huge raisins from its branches, while below, the crushed ones lay as scarred reminders of the glorious plum-laden days past.
On seeing a tree like ours, a horticulturist sees horticultural explanations for the lavish production of luscious fruits. A plum-lover sees the object of his desires. One who doesn't like plums sees nothing of much value. And a devotee sees Krsna, the seed-giving father.
A devotee thinks how no person or machine can produce a single plum (even a scrawny, dry one), which houses a seed capable of producing a plum tree, which is capable of producing hundreds of delicious plums, each one capable of producing another tree. He sees that the simple, relishable plum is a gift of the earth, the rain, the sun, and ultimately the Supreme Lord Himself. In return for this gift, we have nothing to offer but our gratitude and whatever love we can muster for Krsna, who has so kindly given it.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
8 cups plums
2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
2 dried chilies, crushed
2 teaspoons ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cardamom seeds
½ teaspoon rose water
2 cups sugar
Pit the plums and cut them into chunks. Heat the ghee or vegetable oil in a saucepan over a medium-low flame. Add the ginger and crushed chilies, then stir-fry for one minute. Add the plums and the remaining ingredients and cook to a chunky puree. Cool and offer to Krsna.