While English apples enjoy a higher profile these days, the humble plum is still often overlooked. In their prime, they are the most excellent of summer fruits.
Main commercial varieties are Opal, Victoria, Jubilee and Marjorie’s Seedling. Opal is a relatively new, early plum – typically the first of the season. Victoria is the best known and has been with us for centuries. Marjorie’s Seedling is a key late variety. At this time of year, we also see imports from Southern Europe.
Note that you may have also sampled rounder, imported plums outside of the English season. These are from a distinct and separate plant family that originates from Japan. The flesh tends to cling to the stone. The picture below is of damsons, which are a smaller subspecies of the plum. Sloes are similar and hard to tell apart.
Greengages (called Reine Claude in French; pictured below) are also a highlight at this time of year and have a distinctive pale green colour.
Uses in the Kitchen
Picked fully ripe, plums are best eaten fresh and fast. In the kitchen, they are terrific in crumbles, tarts and cakes. For a savoury main dish, try reducing them down with Asian spices for a sauce to pair with duck. Compotes work brilliantly for any breakfast menu. Chutneys are the best way to deal with any glut. Damsons and sloes are often used to infuse gin and vodka.