- Black Plums
- Black Ruby
- Black Beauty
- Black Splendor
- “Owen T” and “John W”
- Red Plums
- Yellow Plums
- Moyer Plums
- Greengage Plums
- Mirabelle Plums
- Myrobalan Plums
- Blood Plum
- Damson Plums
- Burbank Plums
- American (Native) Plum
- Stanley Plum
What is a plum? Is a plum a fruit?
A plum is a juicy, soft, smaller, sweet fruit that is eaten raw or cooked in desserts. The word “plum” comes from the Latin “malum punicum,” which means “the fruit of a kind of ancient Mediterranean plum.” Plums were one of the first domesticated fruits — along with olives, figs and grapes, their remains have been found in Neolithic age archeological sites.
There are quite a few different types of plums including Japanese plums (black, red and yellow plums) and European plums (such as Moyer, greengage, Mirabelle, plucots and pluots). The cultivation of plums began in East European and Caucasian mountains near the Caspian Sea. Plums were introduced to Rome around 200 BCE and then introduced to Northern Europe.
Mentions of plums can be found in ancient documents that date back to 479 BCE and they were domesticated in southern China along the Yangtze River at least 1,500 years ago. The sweet-tart flavored fruits were loved and praised by Confucius, the Chinese teacher and philosopher. During the Tang Dynasty (618 to 907 CE) plum trees were introduced to Japan.
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.
There are more than 40 species of plums, mostly in the Prunus domestica or Prunus salicina species: the former primarily European while the latter, originated in China. Most plums sold in North America are from Prunus salicina cultivars, first introduced through Japanese varieties in the 19th century.
Plum Nutritional Chart
What Color Are Plums?
Plums come in a variety of colors. Here are the most common colors:
Types of Plums with Pictures
Plums can be divided into two major groups: Japanese plums and European plums.
Each of these groups contains many additional types of plums.
Also known as Prunus salicina, Japanese plums are quite round and require at least 140 to 170 days to mature. Most Japanese plum cultivarsbegin to bloom and mature earlier than other species of plums.
Following are some of the main types of Japanese 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.
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 plum varieties, the center of black ruby is freestone which means that the stone easily separates from the flesh. On the other hand, most 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 tolerate humid climates and thrive in USDA hardiness zones 5a to 9b.
Another type of Japanese black plum is Friar, which consists of a lighter tone of amber flesh. Friars display a round shape with a dark-violet to bright 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 a deep purple color. This stone fruit is exceedingly juicy when firm and soft.
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 for Black Beauty in grocery stores is in midseason spring and fall.
This is a relatively new plum that 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 in mid-June.
“Owen T” and “John W”
Both of these varieties of black plums have recently been introduced and are considered to be among the largest plum varieties. Owen T is the largest as it measures up to three inches in width and weighs almost half a pound. Owen T plums flaunt attractive bluish-black skin with sweet, yellowish flesh.
John W plums, named after their 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, and John W in the late season.
2. Red Plums
Red plums are available with a sweet-tart flavor that increases mineral and vitamin intake while giving you a dose of excellent antioxidants at the same time. It has been estimated that each red plum contains a gram of fiber, a half-gram of protein, 6.5 grams of sugar, 30 calories, and no fat or cholesterol. They consist of phenolic compounds that prevent LDL cholesterol from clogging 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 Horticultural Sciences, the yellow-fleshed red plums are more nutritious than red-fleshed.
3. Yellow Plums
Also known as lemon plums, yellow plums are a relatively smaller and rounder variety of plums that possess both yellow skin and flesh. With a crisp and firm texture, the fruits can be ideally picked in late summer to early autumn.
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 brandy. It is best to consume yellow plums when freshly harvested.
Also known as Prunus domestica, this dry variety of plums boasts an oblong sort of shape. It is also considered to be an “ancient domesticated species” and is widely cultivated in temperate regions.
It is believed that this plum species was first cultivated in Syria and then in Rome. 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:
1. Moyer Plums
Considered as the best Europeanplum, 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, the tasty fruit retains its sweet flavor.
Due to their impeccable sweetness, Moyer plums are often labeled as “sugar plums.” To ensure healthy growth plant them with other European plum varieties like Brooks Plum.
You may also find Moyer plums sold as Italian plums, French prunes, Italian prunes or just fresh prunes.
2. Greengage Plums
Greengage plums are deceiving with in their ripened color. Most green-hued fruits are sour but they have a high sugar content.
Depending on the variety, greengage plums can range from a small to medium size and exhibit pale yellow-green to bright lime with red specks on their skin surface. The plums have dense and juicy flesh, and a balance of honey-like sweetness with the subtle acidity of citrus fruits.
Botanically classified as Prunus domestica, Greengage plums are sold in the summer in over a dozen cultivars including, 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 are packed with an excellent nutritional profile, containing vitamins A, C and K. In addition, they also filled with minerals such as potassium and phosphorus.
The flavors that work best with Greengage plums include nutmeg, tropical fruits, vanilla, butter, chocolate, citrus, and tropical notes. 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.
3. Mirabelle Plums
Mirabelle plums are a 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).
While you can grow your own Mirabelle plums, most of this variety originate in orchards in northeastern France. Since 1996 the “Mirabelle de Lorraine” has had a Europeand Union protected origin designation, Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), and cannot be imported to the US.
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 more plum traits than apricot. Plucots have a yellowish-green exterior with a bold pink 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 p0pular in making mint salsa. You can also use plucots in other dishes like jam, chutney, plum crumbles, etc.
They are a late-season plum variety that ripe in late July and August. Once matured, Plucots have firm and crisp flesh and travel well as imported fruit.
Pluots are a sweet, hybrid fruit with smooth reddish skin and yellowish flesh. To make the most of pluots, 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 other plums, pluots can stay on the counter for three days and for one week in a refrigerator.
The Mirabelle plum is a specialty of the Lorraine, in the northeast of France.
Plums – More Types
1. Myrobalan Plums
One of the larger plum trees, Myrobalan Plums, are planted for their sweet, juicy plums. But they are also planted as ornamental landscape trees. With a purple canopy of flowers, they can stand alone as decorative trees without any fruit. Growing next to other plum trees will aid in pollinating. and produce small, sweet red fruit reminiscent of fruiting cherry trees.
- Scientific name – Prunus cerasifera
- Origin – Western China, including the Caucuses
- Date of origin – 1350 – 1400
- Cultivar – Skoroplodnaya cherry plums crossbred in 1940 in Lithuania
- Pollination – Myrobalan Plums need other tree varieties for pollination
- Height – 25 feet
- Growing difficulty – Somewhat difficult, requiring fertilization and irrigation
- Notable – Brilliant canopy of pink flowers
2. Blood Plum
A type of Cherry Plum tree, Blood Plum is known for its beautiful white blossoms and red-fleshed fruit. Also called Satsuma Plums, they are a vigorous fruit-producing variety of plum trees. It has a sweet, slightly tart flavor for making jams, stewing, and eating.
- Scientific name – Prunus cerasifera ‘Nigra’
- Origin – Near East
- Date of origin – 1885
- Cultivar – Luther Burbank Santa Rosa, California
- Pollination – Blood Plums are self-pollinating but do best next to other plum trees
- Height – 22 feet
- Growing difficulty – Easy when soil conditions are correct and in a warm and sunny location
- Notable – Red-purple flesh
3. Damson Plums
Featuring dark purple fruit and dark green leaves, Damson PLums have stunning appeal. They are also one of the oldest cultivar trees introduced to England by the Romans. They produce fruit for fresh eating or are used in various baking dishes. The fruit has a rich, distinctive flavor that is both sugar-rich and astringent.
- Scientific name – Prunus domestic ‘Insititia’
- Origin – Damascus, Syria, and Middle England
- Date of origin – 3rd – 5th century AD
- Cultivar – Damson Plum has the distinction of having seeds unaltered for centuries
- Pollination – They are self-pollinating but have larger crops next to other plum trees
- Height – 20 feet
- Growing difficulty – Not difficult to grow and is cold weather hardy
- Notable – Small ovid fruit with a somewhat astringent taste
4. Burbank Plums
Bright green foliage with white flowers, Burbank Plums are Japanese heirloom plums. The trees have branches producing reddish-purple fruit with a yellow blush of skin. The golden-orange flesh is very sweet and juicy, often compared to nectarines.
- Scientific name – Prunus salicina ‘Burbank’
- Origin – Japan
- Date of origin – 1897
- Cultivar – Luther Burbank Santa Rosa, California
- Pollination – Needs cross-pollination with other Japanese plum varieties
- Height – 35 feet
- Growing difficulty – Easy to grow
- Notable – Large and firm fruit that is juicy and reminiscent of nectarines
5. American (Native) Plum
Native to North America, American Plum is often used as an ornamental or boundary plant. Shrub-like growing only 8’x8’ is perfect for creating boundaries or a windbreak. Also, it produces edible but tart plums, most often used in preserves, jams, and jelly.
- Scientific name – Prunus americana
- Origin – United States, more common in the Midwest and Great Plains
- Date of origin – Eaten as a food source by Plains Indians
- Cultivar – Japanese plum trees (Prunus salicina) Santa Rosa and Frontier plum trees
- Pollination – The trees are self-pollinating but usually produce more fruit cross-pollinating
- Height – 8-15 feet
- Growing difficulty – Not too difficult in various soil types
- Notable – It can be grown as a single tree or as a shrubbery colony
6. Stanley Plum
I have some experience with Stanley Plums picking them in California. The crop was harvested to be used as prunes. Stanley Plum is one of the most popular plum trees. This is primarily due to it being a dependable fruit-producing tree.
An attractive plum tree with fragrant flowers. The Stanley Plum produces large clusters of blue fruit with a sweet, complex flavor. The purple plum has yellow/green flesh with a high sugar content and is excellent for drying to make prunes.
- Scientific name – Prunus domestica
- Origin – Geneva, Switzerland
- Date of origin – 1926
- Cultivar – Richard Wellington of Cornell University
- Pollination – Self-pollinating and not requiring any other trees
- Height – 30 feet
- Growing difficulty – Easy to grow
- Notable – Second most popular plum for making prunes
Where to Buy Trees/Seeds
1. Stark Bro’s Nurseries & Orchards Co.
Stark Bros Nurseries & Orchards Co has over 200 years of experience producing high-quality fruit and nut trees, garden trees, and berry plants. The company continues to introduce new products, with the introduction of USDA-certified organic trees and plants being its latest innovation.
The company uses a unique EZ Stark growing program that employs bottomless pits to air prune roots. The program creates a dense root mass that transplants and establishes quickly, increasing the growth rate and resulting in early flowering and fruiting.
Stark Bros, Nurseries & Orchards Co. offers European and Japanese plum trees. The European species are oval-shaped with soft skin and flesh, suitable for making jams, jellies, or prunes. The varieties include the Damson plum and the Stanley Prune plum.
Japanese plum trees include:
- Bubble Gum plum
- Flavour queen pluot
- Shiro plum
- Spring Satin Plumcot
- Flavor supreme pluot
- Morris plum
- Santa Rosa plum
- Superior plum
The company guarantees tree survival for one year. Otherwise, it will send you a free one-time replacement.
2. Trees of Antiquity
Trees Of Antiquity has more than 40 years of experience growing and shipping organic fruit trees from its heirloom nursery. It sells certified organic fruit trees using a natural growing method involving a five-year crop rotation to prevent soil invasion by pathogens and planting permanent native plants, annual flowers, and fruit trees to attract beneficial insects, birds, mammals, and small reptiles.
The company uses green manure and compost to prevent soil erosion and encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria and fungi. It also uses traditional hand-hoeing to remove weeds.
Trees Of Antiquity offers European varieties, including:
- Mirabelle plum
- Oullins plum
- Golden transparent plum
- Stanley plum
- Early Laxton plum
- Coes Golden Drop
It also offers Japanese varieties, including:
- Golden nectar plum
- Impera prune plum
- Shiro plum
- Inca plum
- Elephant heart plum
- Weeping Santa Rosa plum
- Bleu Damson plum
Trees of Antiquity ships plum trees from January to May during their dormancy to minimize transplant shock. It doesn’t have a minimum quantity requirement, and it also offers a limited order pick-up option for locals on appointed weekends in winter.
3. Hardy Fruit Tree Nursery
Hardy fruit tree nursery aims to normalize planting fruit trees in every Canadian home. It selects and produces trees that naturally adapt to the northern climate, can survive low temperatures (as low as -50 degrees) and require little to no maintenance. Besides, these trees can last up to 100 years.
Hardy fruit nurseries plum trees are resistant to black knot disease that affects European plum trees. They are hybrids of Canadian, American and Japanese plum trees and are self sterile; they cannot pollinate each other thus require a wild plum tree to pollinate them.
The company offers European and American plum trees that can grow in hardiness zones 2,3 and 4. Zone 2 varieties include:
- ACME plum tree
- Brookgold plum tree
- Canada plum tree
- Manor cherry plum
- Opata cherry plum
- Patterson pride plum tree
- Perfection plum tree
The zone 3 varieties include:
- Greenville plum tree
- Hardygold plum tree
- Underwood plum tree
- Valton plum tree
Zone 4 varieties include:
- Alderman plum tree
- La Crescent plum tree
- The flowering hedge
4. The Green Barn Farm
The Green Barn farm propagates its trees in a 70-acre of plant diversity. The trees grow naturally without herbicides, fungicides, GMO, or organic or synthetic pesticides. They are also resistant to many fruit diseases or pests, hence do not require any chemicals.
The company generates fruits from its own cold-adapted mother trees, root stocks and interstems and harvest them when dormant. It further stores them in cold rooms until they reach the final grower. Spring orders ship in late April, May and June, and offers order pickup option on appointment.
Green barn nursery offers cold-adapted disease-resistant plum tree varieties adapted to Canadian climate and resistant to black knot disease. The trees can tolerate lower temperatures (below -40 degrees) and yield delicious fruits. These species include Red Arctic, gold star and red star. Other plum tree species from Green Barn farm include:
- Montreal Mirabelle
- Root Stock
- Purple star
5. Silver Creek Nursery
Silver Creek nursery believes in natural and sustainable farming, thus grows its trees without chemicals, treated seeds, or genetically modified organisms. It also practices crop rotation to prevent soil erosion.
The company offers various European and Japanese plum trees for various growers. The European varieties include:
- Blue European plum
- Krikon Damson
- Late Italian
- Mount Royal
Japanese varieties include:
- Early Golden
The hybrid varieties include Waneta and Toka species.
Frequently Asked Questions
When do plums bloom?
Blooming in the late winter or early spring, plums typically ripen between May and September, however, this varies by species, cultivar and climate. Depending on the variety, you can grow European plums well in USDA plant hardiness zones 3–9, whereas Japanese plums can be grown successfully in zones 4–10.
If you want fruit from your plum trees, you’ll need to plant at least two different types that are pollination-compatible, as most plums are not self-fruitful. Between four and six years after planting, the trees should start producing fruit.
Can you eat wild plums?
You can eat wild plums raw if you like, but most people prepare them first because of their sour and even harsh taste. Sugar is typically used to preserve the plums in some form, such as jam, jelly, syrup or sauce.
Can you eat unripe plums?
It’s possible, without a doubt. You wouldn’t pluck one out of the fruit bowl and eat it like a ripe plum because they are rather hard and very sour. Yet they work wonderfully in the kitchen.
Green plums can be used in every recipe that calls for ripe plums; however, additional sugar may be required.
Can you juice plums?
Yes! Juice from plums is often prepared from fresh plums, specifically the high water content variety. Juicy plums are superior because they are simpler to process into juice and other sweets.
Juice can be made from either fresh plums or dried prunes, albeit the methods are slightly different.
Do plums stain clothes?
Stains from plums can be difficult to remove from fabric, but they’re not impossible to get out if you follow the proper steps. The following are some methods for removing prune stains from fabric and other surfaces.
Rinse the stained area promptly with cold water rather than hot water. To eliminate plum stains from clothes, you can use either lemon juice or vinegar.
Can plums be yellow?
Plums are sometimes yellow. Originally from South America, the yellow plum, also called lemon plum, is a small, spherical plum with a bright yellow color. The size of the fruit is less typical of a plum. The yellow meat has a pleasantly sweet and juicy flavor. There are more varieties of yellow plums, but they are only sold at farmer’s markets.
Can plums be canned?
It’s easy to can plums for usage all year long. We are able to can the plums in different ways, such as in syrup, juice, or water. We can cut them in halves or simply store the whole fruit by removing the pit or leaving it in place. Plums are among our greatest crops because they consistently yield a lot of fruit.