What are plums?

One of the juiciest stone fruits, 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 red to deep purple, or yellow to 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.

How to prepare plums

Using a sharp knife, cut in half following the line of the cleft, 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 skin is edible, but if you want raw plums without the skin, drop into into boiling water for around 15 seconds, then plunge immediately into cold water and it should come away easily. If you’re cooking plums, they’re easier to skin afterwards.

How to cook plums

Eat sweet dessert plums raw. Halve and roast (15-20 mins); poach whole (15-25 mins); stew (10 mins). Bake in pies and crumbles.

How to store plums

Once ripe, plums will keep at room temperature for around three to four days. Or, store them in the fridge in a perforated bag for up to five days.

See our plum recipes for inspiration.

When are plums in season?

Available all year round, but British varieties are in season from mid-August to October.

Learn how to grow your own plums from the experts at Gardeners’ World.

Choose the best plums

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 gently squeezed. If they feel soft at the point where the cleft meets the stem, they are overripe. Avoid split, brown or shrivelled plums.

The sweet and juicy flesh of the following varieties make them particularly good to eat raw: yellowy-red skinned Victoria plums, the bright red Santa Rosa and Burbank, the green/red Denniston’s Superb and the yellow-skinned Black Amber. Great for cooking with are the drier, tarter varieties like the Mirabelle, Cherry (so named because they are smaller than dessert plums), Quetsch, and Czar plums.

Alternatives to plums

Try damson or greengage.