In another blog post I mentioned that when I arrived to the Pacific Northwest from the East Coast I thought I alone had discovered a secret treasure trove of backyard and park orchards and berry trees. My city has excellent 'urban hiking' with wonderful stairways that meander over the rolling hills covering the city. One can get lost and them re-find themselves easily. In the mid to late summer plum, pear, and apple trees begin to ripen, as do blackberries and grapes, so you can eat your way through your walks.

A couple of years ago I noticed that my neighbor wasn't doing much with her Italian plum trees in her front yard. Most of the fruit, if not all of it that wasn't being eaten by the birds, was ending up fermenting on her lawn and the sidewalk. I took a crate sized box down and started collecting and brought them home. But you can only eat so many plums. I went to work trying to figure out how to use them before they went bad, and before breeding a swarm of fruit flies.

Plums contain a good amount of iron, potassium, soluble fiber, vitamin C, and anti oxidants. They help regulate bowel movements and ease constipation associated with pain killers; prunes are made from plums. Iron is super important as a resource in the production of red blood cells. So how could I use them and could they serve any purpose for cancer treatment?

Chutney was the answer! Chutneys are sauces or relishes originating in India, made to enhance flavors or to be added to compliment a foods flavor. They can be sweet, spicy, salty, tangy or otherwise depending on what kind of spices you add; and can be made from many things including fruit. They are very, very easy to make. Basically, you add all the ingredients and then allow them to 'cook' down. This was perfect for the 4 to 5 pounds of plums I had gathered. Cleaning the plums and cutting off the damaged portions took the most work. After that I placed them in a pot with spices (see recipe in recipe section) and allowed them to cook and condense. My plum chutney was delicious.

Chutneys can be used quite effectively for taste disturbances caused by chemotherapy (and sometimes by radiation). Prior to discovering chutney, I would suggest to my patients to use lemon juice, salt, mustard or vinegar to enhance the flavor of their food if their taste buds had caused their food selections to diminish. Chutney, however is an excellent tool for eating and enhancing tolerable flavors. In many cases people's taste either diminishes, or they develop a metallic or even putrid taste in their mouths, but one flavor tastes okay. Matching a chutney with flavor preference can enable patients to begin eating some foods again, while getting some great nutrients.

This year, I'm going to try my hand at making a fig, and also a pear chutney since these fruits are also abundant in my neighborhood.