Plums are one of the most loved and luscious fruits in the world which grow on trees. They are classified in the genus Prunus. Plums are a sub-variety of drupes because they have a seed in the center surrounded by soft and sweet flesh. More than 40 varieties of Plums exist in nature, and around 45kg of medium size fruits can be obtained from a plum tree in a year.
A fun fact about plums is that plums may be the first fruit cultivated by humans. It is a common misconception that most fruits were first domestically cultivated by cultivars. But the cultivation of plums began near the Caspian Sea in east European and Caucasian mountains. Some people also believe that plums were first carried to Rome around.
200 B.C, and later their cultivation also began in Northern Europe. The other group of people thinks that the Duke of Anjou brought plums to Europe around 1200 A.D when he returned from Jerusalem. The truth is still unknown, but it is commonly believed that humans are growing plums through ages.
Plums were first mentioned in ancient documents around 479 B.C and were also homegrown by the Chinese at the same time. The mention of plums can also be found in the writings of the famous Chinese philosopher Confucius. In his works, he praises these tart-flavored fruits.
Plums are also a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and antioxidants like other family members, such as peaches and cherries. In addition, plums have many health benefits as they help improve the heart’s health and improve blood circulation by reducing cholesterol levels. Some plum varieties are also proved to be effective in reducing skin scars.
The shape of plums is oval or round with a stone in the middle. There exist many plum varieties with different colored skin, such as purple, red, and yellow. The inner flesh of the Plum is usually amber-colored and is soft and juicy.
The black plum varieties are dried to produce prunes. An older or mature plum fruit develops a dusty white waxy coating, imparting a bluish-green or pale grey color. The size of a regular plum ranges between 0.7″ to 2.7″ (2-7cm).
There are two main plum varieties, Japanese plums, Prunus salicina, and European plums, or Prunus domestica. The shape of Japanese plum varieties is oval or heart-shaped and comes in black, red, and yellow.
Japanese plums are eaten fresh because they have firm flesh. The European plum varieties are lovely and juicy; this makes them ideal for baking or use in jellies and jams. Many plum varieties range from sweet to tart. Some plum varieties have red-flavored skin. Other plum types are sweet and have amber-colored flesh.
All the Different Types of Plums
As mentioned earlier Japanese plums are known as Prunus salicina and have firm flesh. Japanese plum varieties require 140-170 days to mature. They mature earlier as compared to other plum varieties. Some main types of Japanese are prominent in the fruit market are:
Black plums have a sweet taste and a bright red color, and sometimes a deep purple color. Traditionally, black plums are used in plum tarts as they are firm and do not fall apart. This provides a dish a great texture and together appearance.
The most incredible property of these black plums is that they impart a mesmerizing purple color to the dish because of their dark skin. The Japanese plum varieties can be further divided into more types such as:
Black ruby is one of the most widely used and famous Japanese plum varieties. Black ruby has a reddish-black skin surrounded by yellow flesh, which is succulent. The ripening time of this plum variety is mid-summer.
This plum variety is freestone; this makes it popular to be eaten fresh. The luscious flesh of this Plum can be enjoyed easily as the stone comes off easily. Most of the Japanese plum varieties are clingstone.
‘Friar’ are Japanese plums that are larger as compared to other plum verities. They have luscious, juicy, and sweet flesh. This plum variety has a dark purple color with few shades of a dusty blue wax coating. Friar plums have a small pit covered by amber-colored flesh. This plum variety is juicy and firm, which makes it highly suitable to be eaten fresh.
The most remarkable feature about this Plum is that they have a long harvesting time. The fruits are ready to be cultivated in late August, and these trees also produce many fruits.
As the name suggests, black beauty is a succulent Japanese plum variety with a dark and deep purple skin with hints of reds and bright yellow flesh firm in texture. This firm texture of black beauty plum makes it very juicy when you will take a bite. The black beauty plums are dark and oval and have a medium to large size. They are also among the popular variety of plums that can be eaten fresh.
To check whether the Plum is ready to be eaten or not, gently squeeze the Plum. If you feel that it is soft, then it is ready to be eaten. If you feel that Plum is a little hard and unripe, you can put the Plum in a paper bag; by doing this, you can easily decrease the ripening time. Black beauty plums have a lovely, sweet taste accompanied by bits of tartness. While buying plums, you should always avoid the small, bit hard plums and have spots on them.
A new species, it is a blackish blue colored plum, and its taste is just supreme. These are available in the market in sizes ranging from mid-sized plums to large-sized plums, which are moist and have a color like red in the mesocarp or flesh.
These plums are generally bigger than the normal ones, although they do not come under the category of ‘large’ plums. The pit at the center of the Black Splendor containing the seed cannot be fully removed from the main flesh, belonging to the clingstone category. Its sweet and rich taste cannot be ignored by any chance.
These grow and are harvested early in comparison to the Black Beauty and Friar. Generally, these are harvested anytime in June, making them an early-season Plum. Therefore, these can be enjoyed sooner.
“Owen T” and “John W”
Named after their fruit breeders, these Japanese Plums are the newest introductions in the species of Japanese Plums. These are, in general, large, and therefore come under the category of ‘Large’ Plums.
Owen T is considered the largest Plum globally, with its size measuring 3 inches wide easily and around half a pound in its weight. These make them heavy, big, and juicy. A big size ensures a large amount of flesh. Owen T’s color can be considered attractive, with its skin being a blackish-blue tint and a yellow-appearing mesocarp or flesh that looks sweet.
John W, the breeder’s name is John H. Weinberger, is a distinguished species of Plums due to its appearance has violet or purple outer portion or skin, and its flesh is orangish in color. These have an amazing taste, and their trees are a high-yielding variety of trees. This means each tree produces much more plums than any normal one would of any other species.
Not just John W, Owen T is also a high-yielding variety species, making these a great producer of plums when it comes not just to quality but even quantity. Owen T is harvested mostly during the midseason harvest and John W during the late-season harvest.
The Red Plums are not just good-looking and tasty but also good for health. Their taste is a sweet and sour flavor or sweet-tart taste. This sweetish-sour flavor is liked by not just kids but adults as well. As for health benefits, it is full of minerals such as Potassium and vitamins such as Vitamin B-complex, Vitamin A, and antioxidants. The antioxidants are not only healthy but also help in fighting cancer and slow down aging. Each bite is therefore enriched with health.
The Red Plums are also liked and seen as a smart option by those planning to lose some weight. This is because each Plum has at least one gram of fiber and six grams of sugar. Other than that, it has a low caloric value of just 30 calories and no fat content or cholesterol. These things make these plums great for weight loss and keep the heart’s health in good shape. That is because there are Phenol compounds that promote the prevention of cholesterol clogging in the blood. This means a lower risk of cardiac arrest and other cardiac issues.
The color of the Red Plums, as the name suggests, ranges from being a light red plum to dark red and even a dark purple shade. That was for the skin of the plums. As for the mesocarp of the flesh, its color ranges from red in some and light yellowish in others.
As per the HortScience Journal (2004), the plums with a yellowish mesocarp are the richest in nutrient value compared to the reddish mesocarp ones.
The Yellow Plums are also called Lemon Plums due to their resemblance to the lemon in shape and color. These are small when compared to the normal plums, and their shape is round. The mesocarp of the flesh is yellow, and so is the skin of the fruit. This makes them appear juicy and sweet.
Coming down to the texture and taste of the plums, these have a crispy textured flesh that is juicy. This makes these plums portray the maximum amount of plumpness to delight. These are available fresh in the market from August to November or even December. These are best enjoyed when bought fresh after harvest because as time passes, they lose some of their nutritional values and the taste in the cold storage.
The Yellow Plums are usually used in making pies, juices, and fruit jams, and preserves. However, they are also used to make Brandy. Some research confirms that almost ninety percent of the Yellow Plums are converted either into Brandy or Jams.
Prunus Domestica or European Plums
European Plums, also known as the Italian Plums, are a dry variety of plums with a rectangular or elliptical shape. These are categorized as “Fresh Prunes” in stores. Prunus Domestica is one of the oldest species of Plums cultivated by men in temperate zones.
Their cultivation is traced back to ancient Syria and Rome. During the Crusade, these plums were taken to the western parts of Europe by the Romans, thus making them reach most of Europe eventually. The Italian or European Plums are available in a wide range of colors and tastes, some of which are:
The best plums of the European category, the Moyer Plums, are long in shape and have less rounded sides and edges. Therefore, these make them look different from the common plums. These are generally bought fresh after harvest from the market and enjoyed for the sweet taste. The Moyer plums are famous because of their flavor retention property, which means that they keep their taste even when used in different dishes.
The sweet taste of the Moyer plums is so sweet that it is even known as “sugar plums.” These are generally planted along with other European plums, like Brooks Plums, for better growth of their plants. Another thing that makes them the best is their insect repellent property. This means the variety of plums is less tension for the farmers regarding insects and pests-related issues. The only thing that needs to be taken care of is to keep them safe from ‘Bacteria.’
In the market, these plums are sold under the name of French Plums, French Prunes, Fresh Prunes, Italian Prunes, and Italian Plums.
The Greengage Plums are a variety of plums that look unripe due to their color. The shade of green that its skin has makes it like the unripe fruits and can be a little deceiving. Therefore, not going by the color, the Greengage Plums are green when they are mature.
Since most of the green fruits taste sourish, a general assumption at first sight about the taste of the fruit can be that it might be sour. However, these are just as sweet as any plums and even sweeter in comparison to most. Greengage plums are said to have the highest sugar concentration.
Their shape and size vary, from small to mid-sized with a faded yellowish-green tint to a tacky and bright lemon-colored skin. There can be small red pecks on them.
Those who eat it tell that the plums of this variety have juicy flesh and look beautiful. The sweetness is perfectly balanced like in Honey, while it also has a soft touch of acidity like in the sour or citrus fruits.
The Greengage plums are generally available in the market during summers and are sold out quickly enough in the summer season itself. There are many prominent cultivars for these plums, such as Imperial Gage, Laxton’s Gage, and Cambridge Gage, to name a few.
Like other plums, these are also used in various things such as Ice-creams, Pies, alcoholic beverages, jams, and more. The best combination of flavors to try with the greengage plums are vanilla flavor, chocolate, citrus, and tropical flavors. They can also be used with Savory food, such as chevre and cheese, chili, seafood, and lamb, to name a few.
They can be stored for up to a week. To do that, keep them in cold storage or a refrigerator.
Mirabelle Plums of the genus Prunus, also known as Cherry Prunes and Mirabelle Prunes, are generally harvested in France and are difficult to find anywhere else. These are a beautiful-looking variety of plums that are pleasantly sweet and cutely small. Full of juice, these plums are almost syrupy to eat.
Their taste makes them suitable in a range of jams, bakery products, and brandies (fruit brandies known as eau de vie).
Mirabelle Prunes are one of the rarest of its kind. Even though they can be grown in the backyard, they will not taste and look as genuine as the real ones, and the real ones are found only in France. These are not suitable for export to other countries, as they lose their taste, freshness, and overall quality.
The shape of the plums is oval or round, small, have speckles on them, and are yellow-colored, although red-colored Mirabelle Plums are found as well.
Some people like growing Mirabelle Plums in their backyard. To do that, a trustworthy supplier of the Mirabelle Plum sapling is needed, and a large enough area in the backyard and the mindset to take its proper care and look after its nutrition and growth.
Plucots are a hybrid plum, a mix between an apricot and a plum, categorized as a plum variety. These usually show a yellowish and Greenish-Yellow skin color and a bold or champagne pinkish flesh.
Contrasting the Japanese Plums, Plucots’ shape is oval and has a patchy (bluish-red) exterior. The texture is stiff, firm, and crispy in the flesh. Just like the other plums, they are used to make similar things, like jams, brandy, cakes, and more.
Plucots come under the category of late-season, with their fruits being ready for harvest (become ripe) by the end of July or August. Therefore, they are suitable for imports and are exported to other countries with ease.
Like Plucots, the name of this plum variety suggests that it is also a hybrid plum. Well, this one is also a hybrid between an apricot and a plum, with more characteristics of a plum than an apricot (70 percentage of Plum and 30 of Apricot); this makes it more of a plum than Plucot, its contemporary.
These are highly sweet due to high sugar concentration in the flesh and so are enjoyed greatly by those who have a sweet tooth.
Make sure to avoid any soft or soggy feeling pluots when buying them, as those can be unripe. Instead, look for those that look bright and fresh and have a vibrance in their appearance. Like any other plum, their shelf life is for around three days and can be refrigerated for up to a week or so.
To end things on a good note, all these varieties are available for plums to choose from in the market. These fruits are not just a delight to the tongue, but the health as well, satisfying the mind and the body.
From the sweetest to a sour flavor, from being as small as a lemon to be as big as three inches, the variety, shape, and sizes of the plums make it a fantastic fruit to try out and explore. Its use in all sorts of things, from cakes to pies, bakery products to alcoholic beverages, makes plums one of the most versatile fruits in the world.