The juiciest fruit in the stone fruit family, plums come in many different varieties, some sweet, some slightly more tart. All plums however have certain characteristics in common, with smooth, richly coloured skins and a hard central stone.
Plums vary in hue from deep purple to red, yellow and green. The cloudy bloom on their skin is natural and isn't an indication of poor quality. All sweet dessert plums can be used for cooking, too.
Choose the best
As there are so many different varieties, colour isn't a useful guide to ripeness. Instead, look for smooth, unbruised skin with a chalky bloom, and firm flesh that gives a little when it's gently squeezed. If they feel soft in the point where the dimple meets the stem, they're overrripe. Avoid split, brown or shrivelled examples.
The sweet and juicy flesh of the following plums make them particularly good to eat raw: the yellowy-red skinned Victoria, the bright red Santa Rosa and Burbank, the green/red Denniston's Superb and the yellow-skinned Black Amber. The drier, tarter flesh of the Mirabelle, Cherry (which are smaller than dessert plums), Quetsch and Czar plums makes them perfect for cooking with.
Using a sharp knife, cut in half following the line of the dimple, then gently grip each half and twist apart. Pull out the stone or ease out with the tip of the knife, then chop or slice the flesh. The skin is edible, but if you want to eat them raw but skinned, drop them into into boiling water for around 15 or so seconds, then plunge them immediately into cold water. The skin should come away easily. Alternatively, if you're cooking them, skin them afterwards.
Once ripe, plums will keep at room temperature for around three or four days. Or store them in the fridge in a perforated bag for up to five days.
Eat sweet dessert plums raw. Halve and roast (15-20 minutes); poach whole (15-25 minutes); stew (10 minutes). Bake in pies and crumbles.
Try damson or greengage.