“Plum Gorgeous: Recipes and Memories from the Orchard” by Romney Steele dropped on my desk last week like a perfectly ripe peach.

Written by the granddaughter of Bill and Lolly Fassett, creators of Nepenthe Restaurant in Big Sur, “Plum Gorgeous” is a love letter to California’s delicious fruit,  with artful type,  charming photographs,  whimsical drawings and  lots of  fun  recipes.

The cookbook was a timely reminder to check on the progress of my own Santa Rosa plum tree, which stands in a tangle of blackberries  in a rather wild orchard down by the creek. If I don’t move quickly, it’s a sure bet that  the deer and the Stellar Jays will help themselves.

While I prefer to eat apricots out of hand, I’m partial to baking peaches into cobblers and turning   plums into a sweet foil for a savory dish, especially pork. Maybe it’s because plums are so messy to eat, their pit clinging stubbornly to the sweet flesh,  the smooth  skin barely holding back the juices .

 Some of the wild critters from the creek do not mind, however. They have been feasting on our neighbors’ plums, throwing online casino aside the half-eaten fruit – often with pit attached –   and allowing the skin to dry like fruit leather on our back patio. At least someone’s on top of the harvest this year.

“Delicious served with cheese or as part of a ploughman’s lunch, these plums are also divine when grilled as an accompaniment to chicken or pork,” Romney writes. “If the plums are particularly small, don’t bother halving the fruit; simply prick with a toothpick and poach whole, adding a minute or so to the cooking time … if preparing for the grill, poach them the least amount of time, just enough to imbue them with flavor, and let them sit in the syrup until cool.”

Spiced Plums

Makes 1 quart

1 cup turbinado or Demerara sugar

1 cup apple cider vinegar or malt vinegar

½ cup water

1 cinnamon stick

1 sprig rosemary

½ vanilla bean

1 bay leaf

3 allspice berries

Few grinds of freshly ground black pepper

About 1 ½ pounds of red plums, halved and pitted

Combine the sugar, vinegar and water in a medium saucepot and bring to a low boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Add the cinnamon, rosemary, vanilla bean, bay leaf, allspice and a few cracks of black pepper; boil gently for about 5 minutes. Add the plums and gently poach at a simmer for 1 minute, or a bit longer if they are large or it seems necessary. They can overcook pretty quickly – you ant them cooked enough to soak up the flavors, but still firm so they don’t fall apart. Transfer the plums with a slotted spoon to a sterilized quart jar. Bring the spiced syrup back to a boil and cook until thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Pour over plums, along with the spices. Seal and store in a cool, dark place for several weeks.

To grill: Cook, turning them over every so often and basting htem with some of the spiced syrup (reducing it a little first), until tender and slightly charred. Arrange on a platter and drizzle with some of the syrup.