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Skopelos holiday island of plums

- by Jeremy Guest

Skopelos holiday island of plums.

Skopelos is one of my favourite Greek holiday island hideaways. It was unfortunate that one of its best the beaches was used for so much filming in the hit movie musical Mamma Mia. Hardly surprising that the island has cashed in on the connection and that the notoriety has brought in the crowds.

Nevertheless, I have visited Skopelos beaches many times and will continue to do so. I think Skopelos is one of the most beautiful in the Greek islands.

There is no airport on Skopelos so arrival is by ferry at either of the island's two main ports of Skopelos Town or, on the other site of the island at Loutraki, beneath the hill village of Glossa.

As well as the usual holiday delights of sandy beaches and soporific coves Skopelos is also known as the plum island and plums have been a cash crop on Skopelos island for many years.

Citrus groves are found all over the island and there are at least eight different varieties of plum trees growing here and Skopelos plums are harvested from mid-June to mid-September.

Although there are eight plum varieties grown on Skopelos but there are three that stand out : the black, red and yellow.

The blue/black plum is a French variety, Azania, which flourishes on Skopelos. It is very sweet and it's eaten as fresh fruit through the summer or used for jam-making. The Skopelos black plum is also dried in special kilns to produce Skopelos prunes and these are stored in cotton bags for use over the winter.

There are several Skopelos island dishes that include plums. Chicken and pork dishes are often stuffed with black prunes. The plums or prunes can also be used in meat 'stifado' dishes for extra flavour. The island speciality 'pork with plums' is found in many Skopelos tavernas.

The red plum of Skopelos has a sour tang. I am not sure of the variety but this plum is often used in recipes as an alternative to lemon or vinegar. The red plums are usually dried in the sun to make a tangy tasting prune that is also often included in local dishes – notably lentil and prune soup and fish stew in the oven with red prunes.

They may also be pressed and a red jelly is made from the juice. Black and red Skopelos plums can be cooked together with baked fish and are both often used together in recipes that contain potatoes and tomatoes.

Yellow plums are even sweeter than the black but they don't keep very well so they are often harvested before they ripen and the yellow plums are used to make sweet jams and plum preserve.

You can find many plum products dried and sold as sweets in confectionery shops on Skopelos. Bakers and patisseries usually offer plum sweets, dried prunes, plum pies and plum cakes, croissants with plums filling and, of course, home-made plum jam.