Plum and Plum Hybrids

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Most plums are the fruits of two species of Prunus. A Eurasian species, P. domestica, gave rise to the European plums, which include French and Italian prune plums, the greengage and Reine Claude, the yellow-egg and imperatrice. The most common of these are the prune types, purplish-blue ovals with a meaty, semimelting, semifreestone flesh. The second, Asian species, P. salicina, originated in China, was improved in Japan, and further bred by Luther Burbank and others in the United States after 1875. Varieties of the Asian species (Santa Rosa, elephant heart, and many others) tend to be larger, rounder, from yellow to red to purple, clingstone, and often melting. European plums are usually dried or made into preserves, Asian plums eaten fresh. Plums are climacteric fruit, so they can be harvested before ripening, stored at 32°F/0°C for up to 10 days, and then allowed to mature slowly at 55°F/13°C. Their aroma varies from kind to kind, but generally includes almondy benzaldehyde, flowery linalool, peachy lactones, and spicy methyl cinnamate.