Everything You Need To Know About Plums
Made up of a mellow-flavoured flesh and a lightly tart skin, these sweet stone fruits can successfully satisfy a sugar craving, making this portable little snack perfect for packing into school and work lunches. Wild plums are native to North America, but today plum growers primarily use European or Japanese varieties. In Ontario, plums begin being harvested in July, however some varieties are picked until October. In the winter months we have access to the varieties that hail from Chile, which are sold in February and March, making plums one of the few fruits that are readily available most months of the year.
While there are several varieties of plums that are native to North America, the plums sold in Ontario are typically European, Japanese or Chilean. Like other stone fruits, there are freestone and semi-freestone types that range in colour from yellow, to red, to blue-ish purple.
- Yellow plums: Early Golden and Shiro plums are the more common yellow variety that are available early in plum season, usually around mid-summer. They are tart and sweet, with a round shape and yellow skin and flesh. Their tartness makes them more popular for jams or tarts.
- Red Plums: With bright yellow flesh and a red skin, these are available starting in August through to September, and are popular for eating fresh. Common varieties are Burbank, Ozark Premier, and Vanier.
- Purple/Blue plums: The skin of these varieties is deeply hued and the flesh varies from deep yellow to bright yellow in colour. Blue or purple plums have a deeper and more mellow, sweet flavour. They are the most popular for eating fresh, and are available from September to late October. Common varieties include Brufre, Victory and Voyageur.
How to Select and Store Plums
Plums are typically picked and sold slightly firm, but when buying, look for plums that are plump, have good colour and yield to pressure slightly when you gently squeeze. Check for and avoid extra soft spots (bruises), brown spots, and broken, blemished or shrivelled skin.
Wash your plums just before you eat, not before storing. When you buy a basket of plums, sort through to find which plums are riper than others. Eat the ripe ones or store them in the fridge for up to a week.
If you have any that need an extra push towards ripeness, store them in a paper bag on the counter out of direct sunlight until they yield to a gentle squeeze. Once ripened store in the fridge and enjoy within a week.
How to Prepare Plums
To peel plums: like other stone fruits, plums can be peeled by scoring an X on the bottom, then blanched in boiling water for about 30 seconds, followed by a quick plunge in an ice bath to cool the fruit. Then, simply loosen the skins and rub them off. Peeling them makes them easier to prepare for jams, tarts, or sauces.
To slice plums: remove the pits by slicing all around the pit, giving both halves a twist to pop out the pit. Slice and cut into chunks as desired.
To bake plums: halve the plums, removing the pit with the skin on or off (it’s your preference, but keeping the skins on will help plums retain their shape.) Cover plums with some honey, melted butter and warming spices (cinnamon, cardamom, ginger) and bake with the cut-side up at 350 F (180 C) for about 30 minutes.
To grill plums: halve and remove pits, leaving the skin on. Drizzle a little olive oil or melted butter on them with a sprinkle of sugar and grill facedown until the sugar has caramelized. Flip and grill on the other side until heated through.
To freeze plums: you can freeze them sugared or without sugar. Sugar will help plums retain their shape a little better, but they don’t need the sugar to prevent any spoilage. Halve and remove pits, and then leave them whole or slice them (with or without the peel on). Flash-freeze by spreading them out onto a single layer of a large baking sheet, then transfer to an airtight freezer bag or container once slices/halves are frozen. Frozen plums are best used within 6 months.
- Eat plums within the first week of purchasing for best flavour.
- Store in a paper bag, as plastic bags will trap air and moisture and encourage spoilage.
- If you need plums to ripen sooner, add an apple to the bag.
- Tart plums like yellow-fleshed plums or under-ripened plums are great for baking and cooking.
- Plums are a convenient choice for a snack on-the-go or packed lunches.
Plums Go Well With
Plums go well with almonds, hazelnut, cinnamon, citrus, black pepper, honey, vanilla, arugula, red wine, ginger, raspberries, goat cheese, yogurt, berries, other stone fruits, bourbon, chicken, pork, prosciutto, and duck.
Plum Serving Ideas
- Plums are great on their own, but try them in a salad, grilled or roasted with some ice cream.
- Once halved, you can grill them or roast them with a drizzle of honey to add to salads, desserts, or on the side of some roasted meats. You can also purée them with some spices to make a homemade plum sauce that’s great over chicken, pork, or duck.
- They also make a great base for chilled soups or smoothies.
- Try replacing peaches with plums in pies and cobblers for a fun twist on a classic summer dessert.
Plums are reputed to be a quick and nutritious snack: with one plum yielding about 30 calories but packing 10% of your daily vitamin C, 5% of your vitamin A, 4% of your daily fibre, and some iron, vitamin K, magnesium and potassium too.