Plums are one of the most versatile and delicious fruits. If you’re a beginner to fruit growing, a plum tree is a great choice, as they’re super easy to grow.
Plum trees are often a bit looked down on, and don’t get the attention they deserve. Maybe it’s because they’re so easy to grow. Today, we’re celebrating the plum tree, and looking at some of the varieties you might like to add to your garden.
Which plum tree will suit you best?
There are hundreds of different varieties of plum. While they have a lot in common, there’s so much variation that most gardens deserve a number of plum trees of different varieties.
This will spread your harvest and give you access to home-grown fresh fruit for longer. It will also gives you more variety in your diet and more scope to preserve and cook them in different ways.
Native Australian plums
There are two main types of plum tree you may be familiar with – European-type plums and Japanese-type plums.
But have you heard of any native Australian plums, like the Davidson Plum? You could also consider these trees for your garden. The fact that they’re not better known or more commonly planted in our gardens is typical of the way we’ve learned how to grow food in Australia. Many of our delicious and nutritious native foods are under-valued due to our colonial past.
European plums are the more familiar and “old fashioned” looking plums that were common in early Australian gardens. These Damsons (which by the way is one of the best jam plums you’ll ever find) are the typical European shape.
But the Greengage and Prune d’Agen plums above are also European-type plums, and there are also lots of other varieties in the ‘gage’ and ‘prune’ families.
The most common European-type plums that most people are familiar with have this classic “egg” shape. They also typically have the dusty ‘bloom’ on the skin. This is nothing to worry about. It’s just the naturally occurring microbiome that includes bacteria, yeasts and fungi.
In fact, the bloom on the skin is one of the reasons that plums naturally ferment so well. This is why they’re used around the world to make hundreds of local variations of plum wine or liqueur.
Here’s another well-known European plum favourite, the Angelina. This plum never gets very large but is prized for its sweetness, and is the classic plum used in many Eastern European countries to make plum dumplings.
Japanese-type plum trees
All the blood plums, of which there are dozens of different ones, are in the Japanese-type plum category. Mariposa is one of our favourites because it’s a very regular cropper, grows to a good size, and is very sweet and juicy.
The more old-fashioned Satsuma blood plum is far more prized than the Mariposa. These lovely heritage plums are best known for its dense and almost ‘meaty’ flesh and it’s dark red juice (whereas the Mariposa has clear juice with pink flecks).
Satsuma plum trees were a common feature of many early gardens. They have the wonderful characteristic of being regular croppers regardless of whether they’re thinned or not (though they can sometimes fall back into the ‘biennial bearing’ pattern common to most fruit trees and start having a year off). Unless they’re thinned hard, they do tend to be one of the smaller plums.
There are also lots of different yellow-fleshed Japanese-type plums like these lovely Amber Jewel. These become sweet quite early in the season but continue to hang well and sweeten for several more weeks. One of the stranger things about these plums is that the tip of the stone often breaks off within the fruit. This creates a small ‘floating’ bit of stone that forms an unexpected tooth-crunching trap for the eater.
How to look after your plum tree
Plums are rare in the fruit world in that they don’t have any particular pests or diseases that target them every season. They can fall prey to aphids or brown rot if the conditions are right (or wrong!).
However your plum tree still needs the right care in terms of thinning, pruning, picking and correct storage to get the most out of your crop. You can learn all these basic skills in the Precious Plums short course. The course also includes detailed instructions and recipes for preserving and cooking with plums.
Plums lend themselves to preserving in a multitude of ways. Jam, chutney, preserving in alcohol, bottling and drying are just the beginning. They also make the most wonderful array of desserts.
You can also use plums to make more exotic fruits like berries go further. One of our favourite desserts is this absolutely delicious plum and raspberry pie. The recipe is included in the Precious Plums short course.