Did you know that plums are probably the first type of fruit cultivated by humans?
Most people incorrectly assume that these moist fruits were first domesticated by cultivars in the wild. However, in actuality, the cultivation of plums began in East European and Caucasian mountains near the Caspian Sea. Some groups of people believe that plums were carried to Rome around 200 B.C. and then introduced to Northern Europe.
On the other hand, others like to think that the Duke of Anjou upon his return from Jerusalem brought along plums to Europe around 1198 to 1204 A.D. Whatever may be the truth, one common consensus remains that wild plums were planted and raised throughout the Old and New Worlds.
The mention of plums can be found in ancient documents that date back to 479 B.C and were also domesticated by Chinese around the same time period. These sweet-tart flavored fruits were loved and praised by Confucius – a Chinese teacher, politician, and philosopher as it can be observed from his several written pieces of work.
Similar to peaches and cherries, plums are a rich source of vitamin A and vitamin C and various antioxidants. Owing to these nutrients and more, plums help improve the heart’s health, circulation of blood, lower the cholesterol level, remove the appearance of skin scars and thus improve one’s complexion.
With so many health benefits, it is good to know that plums come in a wide range of variety. If you have been enjoying only one kind of plum, then we are afraid to break it to you that you are missing out on a lot of joy and amazing flavors! To help you out in discovering different types of plums, keep on reading this blog post.
Table of Contents
Plum Nutritional Chart
There are approximately 20 varieties of plums, most of which originated in China and then were introduced to Japan and then eventually to the United States. Most varieties of plums come in a wide range of skin colors and commonly boast utterly juicy red or yellow flesh.
Plums can be divided into two major groups: Japanese plums and European plums. Each of these groups contains many additional types of plums that we have discussed in detail below.
Also known as Prunus salicina, Japanese plums are quite round and require at least 140 to 170 days to mature. Most Japanese plums begin to bloom and mature earlier than any other type of plums.
Following are some of the main types of Japanese plums that are dominating the commercial supply of plums.
1. Black Plums
Black plums usually range from bright red to deep purple color and come with a mild to sweet taste. Typically, they are used in dishes such as plum tarts as they don’t fall apart when baked or cooked. This helps give the dish more a come-together appearance and texture.
What is more incredible is that by utilizing black plums in your dishes, the dark skin spreads out a pretty purple color in the entire dish. Japanese black plums can be further divided into more types which are as follows:
Black Ruby is a fairly round and reddish-brown plum with yellowish-orange flesh. Unlike other varieties of plums, the center of black ruby is freestone which means that the stone easily separates from the flesh. On the other hand, other types of Japanese plums are “clingstone” in which the flesh is fast attached to the pit.
According to the Clemson University Horticulture’s website, Black Ruby’s trees can easily tolerate the humid climate, which is why they are cultivated in the damp areas of southern and Mediterranean areas.
Another type of Japanese black plum includes Friar, which consists of a lighter tone of amber flesh. Friars feature a round shape with a dark-violet to brightly black color.
This late-season plum is sweet, juicy, and has a small pit. Friar plums take time to mature as they are usually ripe three weeks after Black Ruby.
Black Beauty ranges from medium size to full large size in deep purple color. This stone fruit is exceedingly juicy when firm and soft. Stay away from plums that are small, hard, and have weird spots on them.
One simple and easy method to ripen Black Beauty is by keeping it in a paper bag and leaving it at room temperature. The ideal time to get Black Beauty at grocery markets is in a midseason (spring and fall).
This is a relatively new plum that tastes utterly delicious and comes in a bluish-black color. You can find these fruits in medium to large sizes with moist, reddish flesh.
Unlike Black Beauty and Friar, Black Splendor is quite an early-season plum and can be harvested around June 5 to June 20.
“Owen T” and “John W”
Both these varieties of black plums are recently introduced and are considered to be amongst the large plum varieties. However, Owen T is regarded as the largest plum as it measures up to 3 inches in width and weighs almost half a pound. Owen T plums flaunt attractive bluish-black skin with sweet yellowish flesh.
On the other hand, John W plums which are named after their fruit breeder – John H. Weinberger – distinguish themselves with purple skin and orange flesh. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, the trees of these two types of plums yield a large number of plum crops with Owen T in the midseason while John W in the late season.
2. Red Plums
Red plums are available with a sweet-tart flavor that can increase your mineral and vitamin intake while giving you a dose of excellent antioxidants at the same time.
Red plums also happen to be a wise choice for those looking for ways to lose their weight. It has been estimated that each plum contains a gram of fiber, a half-gram of protein, 6.5 grams of sugar, 30 calories only, and no fat or cholesterol. In addition to a terrific weight loss booster, red plums improve the heart’s health as well. They consist of phenolic compounds that prevent LDL cholesterol from clogging into your bloodstream and thus lower the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
The skin color of red plums varies from light red to dark purple. Like its skin, the flesh also differs as some are red in color while others in lighter tones of yellow. According to a study published in the Journal of HortScience in 2004, the yellow-fleshed red plums are more nutrient-ridden than the red-fleshed ones.
3. Yellow Plums
Also known as lemon plums, yellow plums are relatively smaller and rounder variety of plums that possess both yellow skin and flesh. With a crisp and firm texture, these fruits are juicy and provide maximum quality of plumpness to the consumer. These delicious fruits can be ideally picked in late summers to early autumns.
Generally, yellow plums are used for making dessert pies, jams, fruit preserves, juices, and plum brandy. Research shows that 90% of yellow plums that are commercially cultivated are either made into jams or fruit brandy. It is best to consume yellow plums when freshly harvested. Otherwise, the fruit may lose its original flavor and may not taste as vigorous as it ought to.
European or Italian Plums
Also known as Prunus domestica, this dry variety of plums boasts an oblong sort of shape and is often labeled as “fresh prunes” in the markets. It is also considered to be an “ancient domesticated species” and is widely cultivated in temperate regions.
It is believed that this type of fruit species was first cultivated in Syria and then in Rome; during the Crusades, the Romans introduced European plums to the Western part of Europe. European plums can be found in a number of varieties, varying in their colors and flavors. The following are the few popular types of European plums that are worth your read.
1. Moyer Plums
Considered as the best European type of plum, Moyer plums are longer in shape and less round which is quite unlike typical plums. They are usually sold fresh and plump, having a pleasantly sweet flavor. Once dried-out, these tasty fruits retain its sweet flavor which is why they can be deliciously incorporated in different types of dry dishes.
Due to their impeccable sweet taste, Mayor Plums are often labeled as “sugar plums”. To ensure the healthy growth of Moyer Plums, plant its crop with other European plum varieties like Brooks Plum. The best quality is that Mayor Plums do not get affected by pests. However, they need to be protected against bacteria and that can be done with the use of Bacterial Canker.
You may also find Moyer plums being sold as Italian plums, French prunes, Italian prunes, or just fresh prunes.
2. Greengage Plums
Greengage plums may appear to be deceiving with an unripe-shade – green. However, the truth is greengage plums are naturally green in color even when they become mature. One may think of them having a sour-like taste since most green-hued fruits are sour. But research shows that they have the highest sugar level.
Depending on the variety, greengage plums can range from a small to medium size and flaunt pale yellow-green to bright lime with red specks as their skin surface. Consumers of greengage plums suggest that these beautiful-looking fruits have dense and juicy flesh, having the right balance of honey-like sweetness and subtle acidity of citrus fruits.
Botanically classified as Prunus domestica, greengage plums are sold out in the summer season by over a dozen cultivars such as Imperial Gage, Reine Claude, Bryanston, Golden Transparent, Laxton’s Gage, and Cambridge Gage. Plums belonging to each of these groups have a different skin/flesh color, flavor, and seasonality.
Greengage plums aren’t just flavorful but they are also packed with an excellent nutrition profile, containing vitamins A, C, and K. In addition, they also filled with minerals like potassium and phosphorus.
These yummy plums are also quite versatile in nature and can be used in the making of various dishes like ice creams, pies, and cakes. You can also use them to make delectable jams, reductions, compotes, and a wide variety of alcohol. The flavors that work best with greengage plums include nutmeg, tropical fruits, vanilla, butter, chocolate, citrus, and tropical flavors. You can also pair them up with savory food items like cheese such as ricotta and chevre, herbs including chili, basil, and arugula, bacon, seafood, and lamb.
Did you know that you can store greengage plums for up to a week? To let them survive for this long, you will need to refrigerate the plums.
3. Mirabelle Plums
Commonly referred to as Mirabelle prunes or cherry plums, Mirabelle plums are a surprisingly small and sweet fruit, that are commonly grown in the Lorraine region of France. These utterly syrupy plums are famous for their use in a variety of jams, baked goodies, jellies, and fruit brandy (eau de vie).
This is one of the rarest forms of plum that you won’t find in many countries except for France. While you can grow your very own Mirabelle plums in your home garden, the most genuine Mirabelle fruit is only grown in France. Unfortunately, they can’t be imported to other countries due to difficulties concerning the import of fresh and excellent quality of products.
In order to grow Mirabelle plums at your home garden, you will first have to find an authentic and reliable supplier that can provide you with good-quality plum saplings. You will require big space and have to consider regular care and maintenance for these beautiful plums to grow healthy.
While plucots and pluots are often labeled as the same type of plums, they are technically different. Plucots are an early plum-apricot hybrid while pluot consists of plum traits more than an apricot’s. Generally, plucots boast a yellowish-green exterior with a bold pink to the red interior.
Unlike Japanese plums, they come in an oval shape with lemony green-yellow skin and prominent patches of reddish-blue color. They are firm and crisp which is why they are commonly used in making mint salsa. You can also use plucots in other scrumptious dishes like jam, chutney, plum crumbles, etc.
They are a late-season plum variety that ripe in late July and August. Once matured, they flaunt firm and crisp flesh and can easily be imported to other countries without getting damaged on their way.
Pluots are a sweet, hybrid fruit with smooth reddish skin and yellowish flesh. You can find a number of varieties of pluots at a market – Dapple Dandy, Flavor Grenade, Flavorglo, and Dinosaur Egg.
To make the most of pluots, you will have to look for fresh, fragrant plums that are firm and vibrant in their appearance. Avoid soggy or soft pluots as chances are they haven’t ripened quite well. Just like any other plum, pluots can stay on the counter for three days and for one week in a refrigerator.
Get your hands on all these different types of plums and either eat them raw or cook/bake them into luscious dishes like cakes, pastries, pies, biscuits, etc.