Plums are said to be one of the first fruits that were actively domesticated and cultivated by humans. The plum fruit has a range of flavors, depending on its ripeness. Plums that are just beginning to ripen starts very tart and slowly turns sweeter the more it ripens until it becomes cloyingly sweet when overripe. In a nutshell, there are two primary varieties of plums, the European plum, and the Japanese plum. In Texas, the Japanese plum is more widely produced than their European cousins.
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Order: Rosales
- Family: Rosaceae
- Genus: Prunus
- Species: Varies
- Binomial name: Varies
- The plum tree is one of the few trees that are grown all around the world (except for Antarctica of course)
- Prunes are actually dried plums
- The Agen plum from California is dried to make a natural laxative
- Plums need to cross-pollinate to bear fruit, so it’s common to find sellers that are selling at least two varieties at a location
Plum Buying Guide
As a rule of thumb, the darker the plum’s color, the sweeter it is. As with any other fruit, they should be heavy for their size. Plums should still be firm but have a little give to it. Avoid overly soft plums, that is a sure sign that they are overripe.
There are farms all over Texas that offer “Pick your own” plums. This is an excellent idea because while plums continue to ripen after they’re picked, the sugar development and flavor from tree-ripened plums are superior to those that are harvested ahead of time for durability.
Plum Production & Farming in Texas
Plum production in Texas is mainly Japanese hybrid plums as the European varieties don’t fare well in the Texas weather and are susceptible to fungal diseases. Small independent plum farms are relatively common in Texas. In fact, they’re one of the most abundant stone fruits in Texas, second only to peaches. That being said, even though plums are very popular in Texas, it does not rank in the national production statistics as most of the commercial plum production operations are located in California.
Plums score high on EWG’s list of products that contain high pesticide residues. The pesticide residues that were found on commercially grown plums are the ones that are noted to affect fertility and cause pregnancy issues. This is reason alone to go for organic and farm-fresh plums over the mass-produced supermarket varieties.
Plums do well in USDA zones 5-9, depending on the variety of plum you’re planting. Texas A&M horticulturists recommend these five Japanese plum varieties for growing in Texas.
- “Ozark Premiere”
- “Santa Rosa”
Plum trees thrive well in areas that have full sun. They require soil that is loamy with a pH between 6.5 and 7.0. Another requirement for plum trees is that there should be proper drainage of the soil as the roots are susceptible to fungal disease if left in standing water/overly wet soil.
Another thing that is recommended for plum trees is that they should be planted while the soil is still cold (around January to March) for maximum seedling survivability.
Plums, being closely related to peaches, share the same harvesting and packing methodology as peaches. There are even situations where peach and plums share the same packinghouses.
Since plums are climacteric fruits, meaning they continue to ripen after being harvested, are picked before they are fully ripe. The reason for this is for durability and storage life. Fully ripe plums are very delicate/soft, and to ensure that they survive storage and transport, they are packed in plastic clamshell boxes for small quantities and require a lot of foam padding for protection.
Organic farmers, on the other hand, do not rely on so much protection as their harvests go directly to local markets and roadside stalls. Some organic plum farms even offer “pick your own” services so you can pick fully ripe plums directly from the trees, eliminating the need for additional processing and packaging.
To eat a plum, the easiest way to do it would be to wash the exterior thoroughly, then treat it like an apple, bite down and enjoy. Just be careful not to bite in too deep as the pit/stone in the middle can chip a tooth if you bite down too hard on it.
While the plum skin is edible, some people find it a bit too tart. You can also peel the skin off before eating to enjoy just the sweet flesh underneath.
Ripe plums can be stored in the refrigerator (just place them in an open plastic bag to avoid contact with other fruits or vegetables) for up to four weeks, depending on the ripeness of the plums.
You can also freeze plums for longer storage. De-stone the plums first then freeze them in a single layer before transferring to a freezer-safe container. Frozen plums can keep up to a year without any noticeable change in quality.
Another way to store a bumper crop of plums would be to make plum preserves or jams. When processed correctly, homemade plum jam can last for years.
One of the best-known heated preparations for plums is to make a sauce from it. The plum’s sweet and tart flavor profile makes it perfect for adding to almost any dish that needs an extra kick to it. As with any other sweet and tart fruit, plums also make for excellent pastry fillings for pies and turnovers. Plums can also be stewed or made into jams for a handy snack that you can pull in from the fridge at any time.
Of course, the best way to enjoy plums is to eat them raw and fresh from the tree.
Plums a.k.a. Fresh Prunes
- Even though it has a semi-high sugar content, the glycemic load for plums is estimated to be around 2 per serving. This means that consuming plums will have a minimal impact on blood sugar levels, making it something that people with diabetes can enjoy. In moderation, of course.
- One whole plum has 1 gram of natural fiber, which helps in maintaining gut health and regularity.
- For those that need more fiber in their diet, dried plums (or prunes) are a proven and popular treatment for constipation. Studies have shown that plums/prunes are effective treatments for constipation and are preferable to over-the-counter laxatives.
- Vitamins and minerals:
- While the main selling point for plums and prunes is how they can promote gut health and treat constipation, they also contain a number of vitamins and minerals that can be beneficial for your health.
- Plums contain moderate amounts of Vitamin C, which is a proven antioxidant.
- Studies have also shown that plum consumption was linked with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes due to its low glycemic index.
When Are Plums in Season in Texas?
To find out when Plums are in season in Texas, please check the seasonal chart below. Why is this important? We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas now.