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Guide to Varieties of Plums & Pluots

Black Plums, Red Plums, Yellow Plums, Pluots & Plucots


Plums fall into two main camps: Japanese and European. Japanese plums are round and usually sold fresh whereas European plums are larger, more of an oval shape, and traditionally used for drying. Luckily, more European plums are making their way to market as fresh fruit - they are tasty out-of-hand and their larger size also makes them useful for cooking.

Pluots are plum-apricot hybrids. They tend to be larger than plums and come in a greater range of colors (beyond the black, red, and yellow of plums).

Plums and pluots come in a delightful array of luscious varieties as seen below:

Black Plums

Photo © Molly Watson
Like most Japanese black plums, the El Dorado is, as pictured, bright red to deep purple on the outside but a musty yellow color inside. They have a sweet, mild plum flavor. I like to use them in the Plum Tart because they don't completely fall apart when cooked, so you end up with a bit more fruit-like texture than with other types of plums. As with all black plums, when you cook them up the dark skin will tinge the entire dish a beautiful purple.


European Plums

Photo © Molly Watson

The Moyer plums pictured here are European plums, with a longer shape than the rounder Japanese plums usually sold fresh. They are a larger plum with a lovely sweet flavor that is delicious fresh but also works well dried. Damson plums are another well-known European plum.

You may also see these and other European plums sold as Italian plums, Italian prunes, French prunes, or simply "fresh prunes" since they are the fruit that is dried to make prunes.

These are also the types of plums often labeled "sugar plums."

I've used them in desserts like this Plum Semifreddo to great effect.

Greengage Plums

Photo © Tim Graham /Getty Images
Greengage plums are a green plum common in France. As you might guess, they fall into the European plum group. They have green skin and a greenish-yellow fruit that has a bit of a honey flavor to it.



Photo © PhotoAlto/Laurence Mouton/Getty Images
These are the small, sweet plums with a slight reddish blush used for making eau-de-vie in France. They are the sweetest of all plums.



Photo © Molly Watson
The Dapple Dandy, like those pictured here, is often marketed as a pluot (see below), but it is technically a plucot. What's the difference? Plucots are simply earlier plum-apricot hybrids that show both fruits pretty equally, whereas a pluot has more plum characteristics. Dapple Dandies are larger than most plums and pluots. They tend to have some green on their skins but with vibrant pink to red flesh inside. They are a later season varietal with fairly firm flesh, so they ship easier than many other kinds (and get home from the market with less damage). Their crispness also makes them a good candidate for using in the Plum Mint Salsa.



Photo © Molly Watson
These Flavor Grenade pluots - a hybrid of plums and apricots - have a distinctive oblong or oval shape with greenish yellow skins that will have patches of reddish blush where the sun has hit them (which, I must point out, is just like apricots). They have a fairly crisp texture and a juicy yellow flesh that carries a faintly pineapple-like flavor.


Red Plums

Photo © Molly Watson
The red Santa Rosa plums here are names after the Northern California town where they were first bred in the early 20th century. They have a bright red skin. Santa Rosa has amber fruit, but other red plums, like Satsumas, have bright red flesh that matches their skins. The skin brings a tartness that balances out the sweet fruit. When ripe, these plums are pretty soft, so they don't travel particularly well. Elephant Heart is another common red plum. Like all plums, they works well in jams or, my favorite, Plum Chutney.


Yellow Shiro Plums

Photo © Molly Watson
These plums are yellow inside and out. They are small like most Japanese plums and juicy with a nicely crisp fruit texture. Ripe ones will have just a slight give.

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