Thursday, September 15, 2022

European Plums (Prunus domestica)


Plums are the fourth most common, temperate tree fruit in the world. As might be expected, China is by far the largest producer with China producing ten times the tonnage of the next highest country. Surprisingly, the countries in the Balkans are next with Romania and Serbia duking it out for second-and-third place. I am speculating that most of the plums grown in China are the diploid Prunus salicia and not the hexaploid Prunus domestica.

The European plum never really took of in the eastern United States even though virtually every European country that people emigrated to the United States and Canada originated in countries that produce plums.

Perhaps it is because plums are eclipsed by apples and pears for storage life, by peaches for aroma and juiciness and by cherries for shear flavor intensity. The one thing European plums excel at are drying (prunes) and with the advent of atmosphere controlled refrigeration and high-speed transport "fresh" fruit became readily available year-round. 

Plums are still commonly grown as garden-fruits as a cultural legacy in Europe. Most plums are not self-fertile and require a second variety within easy bee-distance in order to set fruit. Consequently, growing plums has a critical mass. If the trees are too far apart then neither party gets plums.

If, however, ubiquitous and inexpensive electricity and transportation were to become rare prunes might see a comeback. Dried fruit is infinitely preferable to no fruit.

I have yet to fruit the three varieties of European plums in the ERJ orchard and am looking to add a few more. I have Pozegaca, Gras Romanesc and Seneca. I am looking at adding Vision, President and maybe Bluebyrd. Links were chosen for the quality of the description and are not recommendations for the vendors.

I am fond of fruit that ripens after the weather cools, is rot resistant, has a tough skin and can store for a couple of weeks so I have flexibility in how I process it. Longer storage life also makes it easier to share with friends and family. Not for me the tender dainties that ripen in early August and squish if you look at them cross-eyed.

Unlike apples, there is no dwarfing, plum rootstock that induces early fruiting. Fortunately, most plums start fruiting at 4 years of age and heavy fruiting and judicious fertilizing and pruning can keep the tree to a modest size.

I have to admit to NOT being any kind of expert on plums. The one huge success we had was with an obsolete variety named "Dietz". "Dietz" is no longer available in the trade, the tree we had came from a company called Farmer's Seeds of Faribault, Minnesota. Keying out the characteristics of the tree we grew against existing cultivars..."Dietz" could very well have been another name for Pozegaca.

So far, the only issue I have had with my plums is that Japanese beetles appear to like eating their leaves. One issue that is on my radar is Plum Pox Virus (Sharka virus) which is endemic in Europe and has been found sporatically in the Western Hemisphere. Different plum varieties (cultivars) have different degrees of susceptibility to PPV with Pozegaca being very sensitive and Vision and President much less sensitive in terms of manifesting symptoms.

Since I am not an expert, I will be thrilled to have readers chime in, especially those readers in Europe where plums are much more common.

Bonus Links

Bob Purvis, supplier of scion of cold-hardy varieties






  1. We have had a really fantastic plum crop this year after no crop last year due to a hard late freeze that wiped out all of our fruit crops. . My wife and I have been canning and dehydrating plums for the past 3 days and are starting on apples Sunday afternoon. ---ken.

  2. Shit man that beats my plum/prune experience. Had diarrhea the past three days from eating to many. My exhaust is sore and I’m done with plums for the year. They make me gassy anyways. It’s a good thing it’s not pride month…not a bottom friendly diet.

  3. Plums are grown in the Balkans for alcohol production mostly. Slivovic is an important part of life and is manufactured by a lot of people at home as well. This is mostly legal in those countries.

  4. Just a question, how long will dried fruit last? I used to dry apple slices and snack on them, while I was still working. I stored them in Mason jars, but not vacuum sealed. I stopped eating them years ago, just found a jar dated 2015. I threw them out today, and they still smelled good. Do you think they would be ok to eat?
    Southern NH

    1. As long as they are still dry, they should be fine. They might lose some flavor after a while, but they are perfectly safe.

    2. Thanks. I don’t care for the leather-like texture, and seldom eat fruit anyway. I’m sure the squirrels will like them.
      Southern NH


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