Plums come in numerous shapes, sizes and colours and can be broken into two types, European and Japanese, based on the origin of the varieties. Hybrid varieties from both types of plums have been developed for the Canadian climate in Nova Scotia, Ontario and British Columbia and are grown primarily for the fresh fruit market.
- Black plums have a bright red to dark purple colour and mild sweet taste. They don’t fall apart when baked or cooked and their dark purple skin can add colour to an entire dish. Black plums come in a variety of sizes.
- Red plums have skin that varies from light red to dark purple and the flesh can be anywhere between light yellow to red. They have a sweet-tart flavour. The lighter yellow the flesh on your plum, the more nutrient-rich it is.
- Yellow plums are also known as lemon plums and are smaller and rounder than the other varieties. As suggested by their name, they have yellow skin and flesh that is plump and juicy and lend well to pies, jams and preserves, juices and plum brandy.
- Moyer plums are more oval in shape and smaller than typical plums and are usually sold fresh. They are often labeled as sugar plums because of their sweet flavour but can also be sold as Italian plums, French prunes, Italian prunes or just fresh prunes.
- Pluots are a plum/apricot hybrid with reddish skin and yellowish flesh. Their sweet, vibrant flavour make them great for cakes,pies and other baking. A plucot is an earlier version of the plum/apricot hybrid and usually has green skin and firm, crisp flesh.
Most of the Canadian prune plums are grown for the fresh produce market, as there is very little drying of plums done in Canada. However, it is interesting to know that in North America, prunes are typically known as small dehydrated plums. The variety of plums used for making prunes have a high sugar content and thick skin that lends well to the drying process and ensures a long shelf life. A new movement by the prune industry is to market them as dried plums or plum raisins in hopes of modernizing their image.
How to Buy:
Look for plums that are smooth, free of bruising or shrivelled spots and feel relatively heavy in your hand. Ripe plums will also have a sweet fragrance. Avoid fruit that is mushy or showing any signs of leakage.
Place unripe plums in a paper bag away from direct sunlight, but at room temperature. Once ripe, place in the refrigerator.
How to Store:
Store ripe plums in an open plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. You may also place them in an old egg carton to reduce the possibility of bruising.
If you would like to peel the plums prior to freezing them, briefly immerse them in boiling water and peel off the skin. Whether you peel the fruit or leave the skin intact, the next step is to cut it in half and remove the pit. You may then cut the halves into smaller wedges or pieces if you like.
Arrange the plum wedges or pieces on a baking sheet in a single layer and place in a freezer until the plums are frozen through. Place the frozen pieces in resealable freezer bags and remove as much air as possible.
Frozen plums will last for up to a year in the freezer.
How to Prepare:
Rinse the fruit in cool water just prior to using and enjoy fresh. If you would like to peel the plum, immerse it briefly in boiling water and remove the skin when it is cool enough to handle.
Plums are delicious with breakfast dishes such as pancakes, waffles or cereal. Consider adding them to salads or alongside a main-course such as pork or chicken, either sliced or as plum chutney. You may also use them to create a refreshing chilled summer soup.
Plums also work well in pies, crisps, cobblers, cakes, puddings and as a sauce on ice cream.
Plums are a source of vitamins C and A and various antioxidants.
How They Are Grown:
Native North American wild plums have mostly disappeared as bigger and sweeter hybrid European and Japanese varieties have been developed that are hardy to our cooler growing climate. Plums are commercially grown for fresh produce in orchards in Nova Scotia, Ontario and British Columbia. However, plums make up less than 0.5% of Canadian fruit production.
Plum trees grow in orchards in Ontario, British Columbia and a few in Nova Scotia. European plums are self-pollinating while Japanese plum varieties require cross-pollination by insects and birds to bear fruit. After the fruit starts to develop the growers thin out smaller fruit from the tree and prune excess branches to ensure the remaining plums grow to maximum size and sweetness.
Like peaches, plum varieties can be classified into clingstone (pit clings to the flesh) and freestone (pit removes easily from flesh) traits. Freestone plum varieties are used for prunes as the stone separates easily, while plums for fresh consumption are often clingstone varieties.
Plums are harvested by hand by trained pickers in late summer to early fall. They are taken to a packing house and cooled immediately to slow the ripening process. They are then graded and packed and put into cold storage before being shipped to the grocery store within a few days of picking.
Canadian crop is available: Mid July to late September.
Grown in: Ontario, British Columbia, Nova Scotia.