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47 responses to “Wild Plums – Everywhere, and Nowhere”

  1. Catherine

    I always wondered about those plums. Thanks for the info.

  2. Carbzilla

    Our neighbor has one of these trees and for the longest time I just thought it was a cherry tree. This season I may have to ask for some to mix in with my rhubarb and make sauce!

  3. Sean

    These are extremely common around San Francisco, and in fact we have two in front of our house. However, they don’t tend to fruit very well here. We’re definitely getting some dropped fruit now, though, so perhaps I’ll pull out the ladder and do some harvesting before it’s too late.

  4. matt

    There is nothing quite like scrumping from your neighbors yard! I am now totally going to look around and see if any neighbors here have them. I figure they should grow up here too

  5. Laurie

    Great post, Hank! We make a kick-butt wild plum mead at our house, but learned the hard way about the high pectin content of wild plums. We have to be very careful to keep temp below boiling point, and be willing to use pectic enzyme to ensure clarity. Good luck!

  6. Carolina Rig

    Pretty work on the pie…glad to see you take the plunge and make some proper summer time sweets! The anise flavor of black walnuts pairs nicely with plum…my grandmother would make a topping out of black walnuts for a lot of her plum and berry cobblers/crisps.

  7. karine

    Thank you. These trees are all over my neighborhood. Mostly along the curb, fruit all over the sidewalk. I was out walking with my mother and she said they were decorative and not edible. But they looked so good. I am just not as brave as you are as to go and eat one.

    Now that I know I might take a bag with me when I walk the dog and harvest what I can.

  8. Andrew in Canada

    First off — love the website! I would call you a kindred spirit, but we don’t know eachother that well.

    On the yellow plums: on sections of Vancouver Island and around Vancouver B.C., there are piles of them growing wild. I’ve been advised that they are Chinese plums by my dad, who’s a fan of fruit trees; apparently he ate tons of them growing up.

    Which would make me think that these trees could be found in areas that have a historically high amount of Chinese (like the Lower Mainland, California, and Vancouver Island). As an aside, I think it would be worthwhile to track down old railway lines, because on Vancouver Island most wild fruit trees including these plums grow along rail lines as the leftovers of meals that got tossed from the windows. There are some neat old varieties mixed in: I once found an apple tree that had pink marbled flesh and tasted like rosewater.

    Looking forward to the wine reports.

  9. Leigh

    My great-grandmother had a yellow plum in her backyard in Benicia many, many years ago. It had come up wild just inside her back fence. They were loaded with flavor, but not very sweet at all. She made wine from them and mixed them with figs in a preserve.

  10. Jen

    I grew up with these – one of the few foods we foraged.

    They were planted as decorative trees along the roads (and known simply as ornamental plums), and as children we would spend a lot of time climbing trees and picking plums on our way home from school…of course, this was invariably in the spring, and with the later growing season in Canada we ate them rock-hard and sour.

  11. Jennifer

    I love these plums! I have 2 tress to pluck from. I make a Plum B.B.Q. sauce with them that I can make really spicy or sweet and tangy. My family and friends ask for it every year.

    Plum BBQ sauce is a great idea! Will have to try that one. ~Hank

  12. Laura

    Yay Hank! A pie virgin no more. Pie is great food. Yours is so lovely and colorful! I hope you make many more and that your wine turns out well too. Of course, you could also try to make slivovitz, the Slovak cure-all for what ails ya.

  13. Bill Bird

    Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on what your preference is — breeders have learned how to take the “plum” out of the red-cherry plum trees. The newer trees that you see planted all over suburbia are the “plum-less” version — although the trees do retain that darkish, purple-red leaf color. You won’t find any plums there, however. I had access to a producing tree many moons ago while growing up in Motown and used to “help myself” quite often. Good plum indeed!

    Not all of them! Although you are right, I do see plum trees that have been de-plummed. Sad. Like a declawed cat. ~Hank

  14. protected static

    We’ve got one of the fruit-bearing cherry plums growing on our parking strip. Ever since I learned it was a plum and not an ornamental cherry of some kind, I’ve been toying with doing battle with the crows over its fruit. Hank, your description of the flavors may have been the last bit of incentive I needed 🙂

  15. Suburban Bushwacker

    If it hangs over the pavement (english for sidewalk) I’m coming back with a step ladder.

  16. Kevin

    Glad to hear you’re making wine from them!!! I like pie, but I’d far rather drink a few bottles than eat a gazillion pies.

  17. Holly Heyser

    Sigh. Now that Hank has discovered pie, we’re going to have to eat more chickling vetch beans to keep the ole padunkadunk in balance.

  18. Joshua

    When I hung pest detection traps for the county, purple plum trees (as we called ’em) were very helpful, because they tended to have nice, over-ripe fruit on them – perfect for calling in any stray medflies that might be about.

    The riper, the better for me!

    As for the Food Network commentary, I’m willing to bet that many grandmothers can out-pie many pastry chefs!

  19. Sandy

    How delicious looking. I’ve never seen the little red cherry-plums, but we do have “wild” (or perhaps escaped cultivated) plums down in S. Georgia. As children, we’d raid the trees, but our favorites were not the ripe and sweet fruits. We’d pass those over for the crunchy green ones. We’d dip them in salt to cut the tartness and bitterness and happily munched away. In fact, whenever I see these little plums being offered at our local farmer’s market, it’s always a bin of the unripened, green fruits that are for sale.

    I have never heard of eating unripe plums with salt, but it sounds pretty cool! Sort of like a green papaya or mango salad, which is more savory tart than sweet. ~Hank

  20. Cheryl

    How fun to find those plums. And, plum liqueur sounds tempting! Might have to try that.

    Thanks for mentioning the black walnuts. I had forgotten about those. My Dad grew up in Marysville, so we used to go up north almost every summer for family vacations. I remember all the walnut trees we’d see, and I have fond memories of eating black walnut ice cream at my grandparents. Since I was a little kid, I didn’t really know why they called them “black” walnuts. I just assumed they were burnt or something so i used to spit them out. LOL Only when I got a bit older did I actually eat them.

  21. Cheryl

    Any tips on making the liqueur? I just checked out your elderberry liqueur recipe and noted that you added lemon rind there.

    Just use the elderberry recipe, but leave out the lemon rind. Plums are acidic enough ~Hank

  22. Liz

    Our Japanese neighbors bring these yellow plums to us and call them Japanese plums. I don’t know the Latin for them though, but I’m pretty positive they are from Asia. They sure are delicious!

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  24. Will Huenink

    Plum wine is a fine thing. Being broke this year really cut into the proper wine budget, but I’ve been surprised how well the little summery plum wine I threw together last year, and the cider, have compensated. I think I ran it up to about 10% alcohol, in cane sugar. Macerated on the stones for about a week. No boiling, no added yeast. This year, though, I’m curious to make it up more like a farm-house cider: just macerate, squeeze, and carboy. Ever tried it like that?

    Never tried it that way, but you’ll need to chop the plums to macerate properly. I also never recommend wild yeasts — too chancy, especially when good wine yeast is inexpensive. ~Hank

  25. Jen

    I just dropped by looking for some culinary inspiration to make use of a harvest of sour cherries – you’re now my first stop online for a recipe – and saw this post. I might use your cherry plum pie recipe and sub the sour cherries. Would the sage still be the right flavor, or would you suggest something else?

    We also have the cherry plums here. We forage for them and they’re not uncommon in hedgerows, but still a treasure when you find a treeful of fruits. I put them in jam, though many people make a liquer from them. Ours never ripen past red before they drop to the ground – we haven’t got the heat or sunshine. I wonder if they’re sweeter ripened to that deep purple.

  26. Restaurant Supply Dude

    Here is something: I saw those pretty golden plums on your site last week. They were very unusual looking and they look delicious. So I go to a smallish, locally-owned supermarket here in Lancaster, PA this weekend…and there they were. They were being marketed as “sugar plums” and also as being locally grown. They were delicate and very sweet in flavor, and had an astringent tartness around the skin. By far, the most delicious plums that I have eaten. I probably would have passed right by them if I had not seen them here…so thank you!

  27. Dawn (KitchenTravels)

    Adding to my list of neighborhood foraging outings. I just love the “frost” on plums, it makes for lovely photos.

  28. Jocelyn

    There’s an abandoned orchard up north that I used to go to as a little girl to pick sugarplums. I went to see if it was still there this year, and most of it is. No idea what the real story is, but I sure hope the original developer who bought that stretch of land came to his senses and decided to let the orchard be.

    We always missed the cherry plums (hell, had no idea they existed until this year) because the sugarplums ripen so much later. Luckily I got there early this year and got to harvest baskets and baskets of the most adorable and tasty little plums- the range of colors and flavors was astonishing. I swear the dark yellow ones actually tasted like coconut.

    Thanks for another great, seasonal post. Incidentally, since you mention walnuts, do you know of any good green walnut recipes other than nocino, vin de noix, or pickled walnuts? I feel like there must be a whole world of possibilities, and you’d be the person to answer “Oh sure, here are these 15 recipes I have up my sleeve”!

  29. Sylvie in Rappahannock

    ornamental plums they call it around here – all purple, fruit & foliage – although the fruit are bigger than cherries. Saw some, asked if I could peaked, was granted permission. Lots of brown rot though, so the harvest was slim – 5 pound or so. But made wonderful ice-cream and great plum sauce.

  30. Heather

    The golden ones are called Mirabelles. Clear Creek Distillery makes a brandy out of them that is to DIE for.

  31. Heather

    …oh! also, I made homemade umeboshi with unripe ones. They came out good! The resulting ume “vinegar” is even better.

  32. Liz

    Hi. I just found some plums like these whilst on a little path walking to the supermarket in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England. I picked one because it looked kind of edible but I wasn’t sure what it was. I brought it home and tentatively nibbled a bit and what do you know – it’s a little plum. I think I’ll go back and pick some more soon. Free food! Fabulous.

  33. Joe Navari

    hank, I make plum chutney. It goes really well with game especially duck, and wild pig.

  34. Bonnie

    Decades ago when I went up to Bangor to visit two old family friends I saw this tree full of small plums. My friends told me they were Chinese plums and had been planted by the Chinese laborers. Now know my two friend to be great story tellers and loving to pull my leg, I had my doubts. All I know is while I was there I canned dozens of quart jars of them. Now I wish I had saved some seeds too, One day hopefully I will get back up to Bangor and find a wild plum tree so I can gather some plums to can and some seeds to plant.

  35. Stephanie

    Help! Anyone know how I can identify the incredible ol’ plumb tree that used to grow in my Grandma’s back yard (Santa Cruz, CA)?? The fruit was Incredibly Tart and Flavorful — and Brilliant dark-pink-reddish; the skin was a dark black-purple hue. The shape was like a slightly miniature Santa Rosa Plum. NO ONE could eat them raw… but canned with a heavy sugar syrup or made into a pie, they made they most INCREDIBLE EATING EXPERIENCE!! As a teenager, I went back and canned many pints — they were Incredible over a bowl of brown rice for a quick college dormroom meal! I’VE SEARCHED & RESEARCHED FOR 20 YRS now… Even went back for a PIT – new owners had dug the tree up!

  36. Mike Vawdrey

    Have some cherry plums here in Cheshire, NW England. They’d been used as a rootstock and have grown up from the stumps of old, defunct plum trees. They flower very early so can sometimes be affected by late frosts. The flavour is delicate – like a milder cherry? These specimens are red when ripe. They make delicious jam. What more can I say? – enjoy the bounty in a good year !


  37. Chelsey

    I know, this post is a good 4 years old but I too just recently discovered that damn ornamental cherry had edible fruit, (we called them red cherry trees growing up and they are in every lawn west of the Cascades). To be honest, I didn’t even know it had fruit the first 9 years it was in my life. Then my Dad’s development put them up all over the place and fruit starts lighting up like a glowball around dusk. Then we found the purple plum tree that hangs over a neighbors fence and then I found the wild plum tree in a neglected corner of the town… lucky me!!!

  38. Sophia

    That was hilarious ! (The part that no one knows what tree it is). You must have eaten one, late in summer, before that they are very sour (still eatable of course, as children, we even ate them when they just came out brand new, all green. Not recommended). The red wild plum usually has tons of crop, you can make jelly, chutney, vodka and what not. Shame to have it just as decoration and waste the fruit. In country of georgia, we call it Tkhemali and it is widely popular.

  39. JoJo B

    I recently bought a home and have been enjoying exploring the property. To my surprise tucked away in a shady corner I found two wild plums under a huge oak. Thanks to your post I now believe them to be a red cherry plum and the golden sugar plum. I am however now curious–would it be worth hiring an arborist to shape the trees as they are long and gangly making harvesting a bit tricky. Are there perhaps things a DIY’er can do to make harvesting easier? I would love any advice or suggestions if you all care to share.
    Please and thank you!

  40. Monique

    I am so happy to find your web page I live in Lancaster,CA when I first moved out here in “94” I noticed the beautiful burgundy trees back then, one day I looked closely and discover the cherry plums so I decided to try one and I love it! Me and my grand daughter recently we were walking and I told her about the cherry plums so she decided she wanted to try one she also love them. We came home and told her mom but her mom was so against it, and I tried to explain to my daughter in law that it wasn’t a poisonous fruit or it wasn’t harmful. So this is why I am so happy I found your page so I can let her read it and to know that this is really a wonderful new discovered fruit that anyone can enjoy! Thank you so much for creating this page.

  41. May R. Vail Lee

    The light yellow plums might be Shiro Japanese plums. Please check the various sites under Shiro and you will find that the tree is vigorous and always bursting with fruits. We have one tree in our property and we have given loads of it to the Food Bank and also shared it with several Fire Dept outlets, our Police Dept. doctors, and so many friends.

    I am looking for a yellow plum liquere recipe. I have made various kinds of liquere from our raspberries, blueberries, cherries and strawberries. I had a plum liqueur recipe before but could not find it. I am used to just approximately 2 cups of sugar, plums and vodka, no more no less. Most of the recipes I found in the Internet cook the plums and that, I do not like.

    I would really appreciate your sharing a simple recipe for my plum liqueur.



  42. Gilbert

    Just picked my cherry plumbs as the native Australian birds love them and I have kept them away by hanging silver tinsel on the tree. I bought the tree as a decorative tree and then it produced fruit which I thought would be hard and sour.l tried eating one and found out they are surpurb tasting more like a cherry than a plumb .If you have one producing fruit ,I have just picked 50 + from a tree planted 14 months ago ,treasure it .

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  44. Kathryn

    The cherry plums are going bonkers here in Santa Clara County with rain followed by heat. I made a French fruit custard with a quart picked from street trees.

    We had two other varieties in Arcata growing by the roadside. For a week or two, I could snack on them walking to campus.

  45. S cohen

    Hi from Brooklyn NY! My next-door neighbor has one of these trees and for years we all ignored it and its fruit figuring it’s poisonous. Earlier today I saw a woman walk by, pick a cherry, eat it, and keep walking (maybe she died later, I’ll never know). Later today I saw a truck full of Mexican gardeners stop, pick and eat from the tree, and keep driving (maybe they died too). Hey, I thought, it’s time to check the internet for an answer. Thank you honest-food, I tasted a cherry, and didn’t die. It definitely seems plum-ish, and is very sour with a hint of sweet. Would definitely make a nice pie or jam. 😀

  46. Jennifer

    Oh my gosh! I was on a hunt for leaves with my kids so they could find the differences and similarities and came across my neighbors tree that had these little cherry looking fruit on them. I took a bite and thought it was super good but decided not to eat any more just in case they were poisonous. To my pleasure I found this post. Yay! The house has recently just sold and is empty so I’m going to go scavenge for more heheheh. Thanks for the post!

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