There are different plum varieties. And to get the most out of them, you’d want to know how to distinguish one cultivar from another.
You may want to know which plums are the sweetest when eaten fresh, or you might be interested in which varieties to pick for all sorts of recipes.
It doesn’t matter if you’re buying from the market or planting in your backyard. This article will help you navigate your way into the world of the most succulent plums.
What are plums?
Plums are drupes or stone fruits belonging to the genus Prunus. The plum fruit’s skin is smooth and naturally waxy, and its pulp is firm, juicy, and mealy.
Plum fruits exist in many different colors; they can have green, yellow, red, blue, or purple skin. The fruits can have red, white, green, or yellow flesh that can be firmer than others, depending on the variety.
They range in size from one to three inches and are either round or oval.
Plum varieties can have a tart or sweet flavor. They can either be eaten fresh, dried, used in making jams, or cooked into other recipes.
Dried plums are also called prunes.
Taxonomists classify cherries, plums, apricots, peaches, and nectarines under the genus Prunus since they are closely related.
All of these fruits have a hard, stony pit, hence the general term, stone fruits.
However, among all the stone fruits, cherries and plums are the hardiest and least susceptible to diseases and pests.
Plum trees do not only produce these sweet fruits. They also develop beautiful flowers, making them an excellent addition to your garden, especially during springtime.
Different Types of Plums
Although there are at least 40 known plum species, the most commercially significant cultivars belong to the Prunus domestica and Prunus salicina species.
The cultivars under the Prunus domestica species are more popularly known as European plums.
The European Union is the world’s second-largest industrial producer of plum varieties.
Italian plums are large and oblong-shaped, with a powdery-white bloom on their purplish-blue skin. Sometimes they even have black skin.
The peel is thin and snappy, and it encases a firm, juicy pulp that holds the easy-to-remove pit.
A ripe Italian plum has amber flesh that turns deep pink after cooking.
Italian plums can have a high concentration of fermentable sugars that make them ideal for making prunes, jams, wines, and brandies.
The Italian plum is native to the Mediterranean coastal regions of Italy.
As its name suggests, greengage plums have green skin and pale green flesh.
Greengage plums have a rich, confectionery flavor, and they are considered one of the best-tasting dessert plums.
Although the first actual greengage plum fruits came from a wild plant in Iran, they have plantations in many temperate regions worldwide.
The Damson plum is a deep purple fruit, oblong and usually smaller than other plum cultivars.
With its somewhat astringent taste, it is widely used in cooking and making jams or preserves.
You can find several Damson cultivars across Europe, but the original Damsons are native to the UK.
White Damson plums pale yellow or green skin, but they are scarce plum varieties.
Stanley plum trees produce medium-sized fruits with dark blue or deep red skin and greenish-yellow flesh.
The pulp is firm, and it carries a very sweet flavor.
Stanley plums are also great for eating fresh, aside from the fact that they are also used in cooking, baking, drying, and jam-making.
The first Stanley plums came from Southwest Asia, and they are widely grown in plantations around Europe.
Japan is quite famous for its cherry blossoms, and any visitor can mistake plum trees for cherry trees.
After all, cherries and plums belong to the same plant family.
Plum cultivars under the Prunus salicina species became collectively known as Japanese plums.
The Prunus salicina species is native to mainland China, but the Japanese and Americans did very well with producing better versions.
Japanese plums are alternatively called Chinese plums.
China is the world’s largest plum producer, surpassing other countries with millions of tons in production.
Farmers also grow Prunus salicina plums in orchards in the United States, Australia, Korea, and Vietnam.
Alderman plums are medium to large fruits that have red skin and golden yellow flesh.
Both the skin and the pulp have an exceptionally sweet flavor.
Alderman plums have been initially developed at the University of Minnesota before 1986.
They have an extraordinary resistance to cold, and you might consider this variety for planting if you live in an area with a cold climate.
In Japanese, “shiro” means “white,” and shiro plums refer to the Japanese plums with translucent, light yellow flesh.
Shiro plums are sweet and ridiculously juicy.
The Shiro plum is one of the many creations of the renowned botanist Luther Burbank.
The Burbank plum is another Japanese cultivar created by none other than Luther Burbank himself.
Burbank plums have red or purple skin, usually accented with a yellow blush.
These plums are firm, juicy, sweet, and red fleshed.
The Simka plum is heart-shaped, has purple skin, firm, golden yellow flesh, and a sweet flavor.
Simka plums are also resilient to frost, and their fruits are freestone, which means the pit comes off easily.
Vanier plums also have bright red skin over golden yellow flesh.
It is also sweet, which makes it great for fresh-eating, preserves, drying, and canning.
However, Vanier plums are clingstone fruits, meaning the flesh adheres to the pit.
The Santa Rosa plum is also another creation by Burbank.
It bears fruits with dark red or purple skin and finely-stranded clingstone flesh.
Santa Rosa plums are large-sized fruits that are delicious when eaten fresh, canned, or used in cooking.
Plums are very popular in the United States, but most locally-grown cultivars are Japanese and European plums.
The species native to the Americas is Prunus americana, growing in Saskatchewan, Quebec, Idaho, Maine, Florida, and New Mexico.
What are the best plums?
The best plum fruits vary from place to place, and quality is dependent on storage practices in your local market or grocery store.
However, if you plan to grow some plum trees, check out which zone your area belongs to because plum varieties have different zone assignments.
These zones state whether a plum cultivar can grow in your climate and your particular garden conditions.
Which are the sweetest plums?
If you are looking to satisfy your sweet tooth with a natural honey-sweet snack, go for greengage plums.
Japanese plums are also known to have an extremely sweet flavor. That is why most Japanese plum cultivars are usually eaten fresh.
Mirabelle plums are the sweetest, but they are challenging to acquire in the US due to restricted importation due to their protected origin designation.
Eighty percent of the world’s supply of Mirabelle plums comes from Lorraine, France.
Local industries process 70 percent of this amount into jams and ferment 20 percent for liquor production.
The remaining ten percent is usually eaten fresh.
Mirabelle plums grow in the wild around Europe, and you can also find some of its trees still growing in Tamalpais Valley, California.
You now have a general idea about the various types of plum varieties.
You can start your plum garden, or you can decorate your yard with a tree as ornamental as any plum variety.
Discover other plum varieties for your particular zone – you will find that most of them develop from Japanese and European plums.