The Diverse Family of Plums

Saturday, February 6th, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • Delicious raspberries, blackberries, loganberries, boysenberries and blueberries are all available now for early planting.
    • Pansies will brighten your flower beds with their happy faces. They will bloom all through the spring.
    • Plant strawberry plants now for delicious strawberry shortcake this summer.
    • Spray for peach leaf curl with copper spray. Peach and nectarine trees may suffer from this fungus disease without a protective spray.
    • Cabbage, broccoli, lettuce and other cool season vegetables can be started now from seed. There are many wonderful varieties available on seed racks.

The Diverse Family of Plums

Plums come to us from both Europe and Asia, bringing with them their characteristic traits and flavors.

Best known to us are the Japanese plums with their round, juicy fruits. Santa Rosa is the most popular plum in California with a purple skin and tangy, flavorful amber flesh. Late Santa Rosa is very similar to Santa Rosa but ripens a month later. An interesting variation is Weeping Santa Rosa Plum which is a beautiful 8-10 ft. tree with long slender limbs that bow gracefully to the ground, covered with delicious fruit.

Burgundy has maroon-colored skin and flesh with a sweet, pleasing flavor with little or no tartness. While Elephant Heart has heart-shaped fruit with sweet, juicy, richly flavored, firm red flesh. It has dark reddish-purple mottled skin and is very productive.

The European plums include the prunes. They are all very sweet and richly flavored. French Prune is California’s commercial prune, and Italian is larger and later ripening. They have purple-blue skin and amber flesh and can be eaten fresh or dried. Blue Damson is an ancient variety with small, tart, blue-black plums that are excellent for jams and jellies.

Green Gage Plum is a small to medium sized green plum with very sweet, richly-flavored flesh. It is a long-time favorite for dessert, cooking and canning. Emerald Beaut is a greenish-yellow plum that becomes exceptionally sweet as it ripens.

Plant breeder Luther Burbank was the first to cross plums and apricots, thought to be impossible at the time. His goal was to produce an apricot-like fruit which would bear consistently in our wet north coast climate where apricots fail to set fruit most years. Floyd Zaiger developed some new hybrids in the 1980s which he called Pluots and Apriums. Pluots, which are 75% plum parentage and 25% apricot, do well here while Apriums, which are 75% apricot and 25% plum are difficult to grow here. He went on to develop peach/plum hybrids and nectarine/plum hybrids.

Flavor King is a wonderful tasting pluot with a sweet, spicy flavor. It is very large and resembles a huge, heart-shaped Santa Rosa. One of the most highly flavored pluots ever developed, it is a reliable producer in this area. Dapple Dandy is a taste-test winner with creamy white and red flesh and a wonderful plum-apricot flavor.

Spice Zee Nectaplum™ is a cross between a white-fleshed nectarine and a plum. The skin turns pale pink when ripe and it has outstanding nectarine/plum flavor. Sweet Treat Pluerry® is a cross between a plum and a sweet cherry, and is much larger than a cherry. It has purple skin and yellow flesh and combines the sweetness of cherries with the zing of plums.

For a variety of delicious flavors, be sure you have a good selection of plums, prunes and pluots in your orchard. Fruit trees of all kinds are available to plant now.

Plums in the Home Orchard

Saturday, September 26th, 2009 by Jenny Watts

There are two types of plums that are commonly grown and they have different origins. European Plums originally came from Central Asia, in the area around the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains. They were introduced into Europe during Roman times and, like most fruit trees, they were brought to America very early in our country’s development.

Japanese Plums probably originated in China and were introduced to Japan in the 16th century. It was one of the last fruit species to arrive in the United States, and was only introduced into California about 1870. Most of the Japanese plums currently grown in California are either the direct or indirect result of work done by Luther Burbank.

European plums can be used either fresh or as prunes. Prunes are simply plums that develop enough sugar to be dried to the pit without fermenting. They may either be dried (as is the bulk of the California prune crop) or sold fresh. Fresh market European plums cannot be dried and are eaten the same way as all Japanese plums.

Both European and Japanese plums can be grown here. Japanese plums generally bloom earlier than European plums, but both may need frost protection in the spring. Prunes require a long, warm summer to obtain the right level of sugars, so plant them in a warm, sunny location.

Of the prune-plums, French is most widely grown in California, and accounts for the dried fruit in the markets. Sugar and Italian prunes can be used either fresh or dried. Green Gage is a European plum which is a large green fruit that is eaten fresh.

Santa Rosa is the best known Japanese plum with its purple skin and amber flesh. Elephant Heart is very large with sweet, juicy red flesh. Emerald Beaut has a light green skin and yellowish flesh. It is very highly rated in taste tests.

Most plums need a pollenizer: a different plum tree to cross-pollinate. Santa Rosa is one of the few self-fruitful Japanese plums. Of the European plums, Green Gage, Italian and Sugar are self-fruitful. French is partially self-fruitful and will bear a larger crop with another plum nearby.

Plum trees will not crop every year in this area, but they are easy to grow and generally pest-free so they should be included in your home orchard to enjoy when the crop comes in.