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How To Tell If A Plum Is Ripe

Plums are delightful little fruits, packed with vitamins and minerals, not to mention a fantastic punch of flavor. But the key to enjoying the best plum experience is to eat them when they’re ripe.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore how to tell if a plum is ripe, so you’re never left guessing at the fruit stand or your kitchen again.

Freshly picked plums in a wooden bowl. One plum is cut in half in front of the bowl.
Answer

To tell if a plum is ripe, look for a deep, vibrant color, and it should yield slightly to gentle pressure when squeezed. The fruit should also feel heavy for its size, indicating juiciness, and give off a sweet and slightly tart aroma. A ripe plum usually has a powdery coating or ‘bloom’.

Understanding Plums

Before we delve into the specific indicators of ripe plum, let’s have a quick overview of this wonderful fruit.

There are over 2,000 varieties of plums, each with its unique ripening timeline and characteristics.

Most of these varieties fall under two main categories: European and Japanese. While European plums are more elongated and blue-purple, Japanese ones are typically round and range from crimson to black.

Plums are typically in season from May through October, with peak seasonality in late summer. However, the ripening time can vary depending on the variety and location.

How To Tell If Plums Are Ripe

Color

An essential indicator of ripeness, color varies from variety to variety. For instance, red plums should display a deep, even red color, while purple plums should be a vibrant, dark purple. Yellow plums will take on a golden hue when ripe.

Touch

Ripe plums should give slightly to gentle pressure, similar to a ripe peach. If a plum feels rock-hard, it needs more time to ripen. On the other hand, if the plum feels very soft or mushy, it might be overripe.

Weight

Ripe plums feel heavy for their size, indicating they’re juicy and ready to be enjoyed.

Smell

A ripe plum will have a sweet, slightly tart aroma. If there’s no scent, the plum probably isn’t ripe yet.

Bloom

Most ripe plums will have a powdery coating or “bloom.” This is a natural protective layer, and it’s a good sign of ripeness.

Plum Ripeness Guide

IndicatorNot RipeRipeOverripe
ColorPale or unevenDeep and vibrantVery dark, dull
TouchHardGives slightly to gentle pressureVery soft, mushy
WeightLight for its sizeHeavy for its sizeVery light or very heavy
AromaNo smellSweet and slightly tartStrongly sweet, possibly fermented
BloomAbsent or sparseNoticeableThick, may start to break down

If you’re looking for creative ways to use your ripe plums, check out this plum tart recipe with a creamy almond filling.

How To Ripen Plums

If you find that your plums aren’t quite ripe yet, don’t worry! Here are some quick tips to help them along:

  1. Place them in a paper bag: This traps ethylene gas, a natural ripening agent.
  2. Store at room temperature: Plums ripen best at room temperature, away from direct sunlight.
  3. Check daily: Don’t forget to check your plums each day to prevent them from becoming overripe.

For tips on ripening other types of fruit, such as pears and papayas, be sure to visit our detailed guides on ripening pears and ripening papayas.

How To Store Plums

Once your plums are ripe, it’s best to eat them as soon as possible to enjoy their optimum flavor. However, if you need to store them, put them in the refrigerator.

The cool temperature slows down the ripening process and helps the fruit stay fresh for longer. Just remember to store them in the crisper drawer and not in the back of the fridge where it’s coldest, as plums can get frost damage.

Freezing Plums

If you have more ripe plums than you can eat and you want to preserve them for longer, you can freeze them.

To do this, wash the plums, cut them in half to remove the pits, then place them on a baking sheet in a single layer.

Freeze them until solid, and then transfer them to a freezer-safe bag or container. Frozen plums can be used in baking, smoothies, or sauces.

Cooked or Processed Plums

If you’ve used your plums in a cooked dish or processed them into a sauce, jam, or jelly, these should be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator.

They usually keep well for about a week. Processed plum products can also be canned for long-term storage.

Avoid plums with cuts or blemishes as they’re prone to rotting. Also, stay away from overly soft plums and those with shriveled skin, as these are signs of overripe fruit.

The ‘bloom’ is a natural, powdery coating found on ripe plums. It acts as a protective layer and is a good indicator of ripeness.

Yes, a ripe plum should have a sweet and slightly tart aroma. If a plum has no smell, it’s probably not ripe yet.

Conclusion

Identifying a ripe plum may seem daunting at first, especially given the fruit’s wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes.

However, once you understand the physical and sensory cues—color, touch, weight, aroma, and bloom—you’ll become a plum-ripeness-pro in no time.

Remember, the journey to the perfect plum doesn’t stop at selection. Proper storage and daily checks will ensure that your plums ripen evenly and tastefully.

So, the next time you’re at the market or looking at the plums in your fruit bowl, you’ll know exactly what to do.

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