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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.

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


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.


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.


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


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


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.

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.


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.

With these tips, you’ll always pick the sweetest plums. Dive deeper into selecting the best produce with our extensive guide to fruit ripeness, where we share secrets for a variety of fruits.

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