Plums are a nutritious, widely available fruit that many people find intimidating as they don’t seem as versatile as other fruits. But plums – and prunes, their dried counterpart – contain many vitamins, minerals, and health benefits that make giving them a try worth it.
Where do Black Plums Come From?
The black plum tree is native to India and parts of Southeast Asia. Not much is known about how exactly it came to be so widely distributed, but these tropical climate-loving trees made their way to other regions and began to be known for their medicinal uses.
In traditional Chinese medicine, black plums specifically are believed to target the liver, gallbladder, kidney, and bladder when it comes to healing.
Plum trees can grow just shy of 100ft and live for over 100 years. They grow quickly and many countries consider them an invasive species. The fruit is a favorite of many different wild animals.
In 1911 the United States Department of Agriculture introduced the species to Florida.
What Black Plums Look and Taste Like
Black plums are a small, round, or slightly oblong fruit with smooth blue-black skin. They contain a single seed and the flesh inside can be dark red, purple, or yellow. They tend to have a balance of sweet and tart flavor. The juice of a black plum very easily stains skin and clothing. Eating black plums will lead to a purple tongue.
The fruit is usually coated in a dusty-white powder, which is completely natural and can be easily washed off before consumption. If you’re buying from the grocery store, seeing this white coloring is a good thing – it means the fruit hasn’t been handled much.
When unripe, the plums are green. They slowly darken in color from green, to pink, to red, and finally to their characteristic dark purple/black.
How to Use Black Plums
These plums are usually eaten raw or made into jams. They can be used in baking, but don’t hold their shape as well as other fruit. The fruit itself has been used in sorbets, jellies, sauces, and salads.
The rest of the black plum tree is also considered valuable, as the wood is water resistant once it has been dried enough. It’s too hard for basic carpentry involving furniture and fine goods, but plum tree wood has been used for railroad ties.
Aside from what the tree can provide, it’s also used as an ornamental piece in gardens due to its lush, dark foliage.
The fruit itself can be canned, cooked down, frozen, or dried. In all forms, plums make a wonderful snack. The juice can even be turned into wine or vinegar (prune juice by itself is often used for digestive relief).
The most common use for plums outside of eating them fresh is making them into prunes. Prunes are dried plums that, for some reason, seem to stimulate the digestive system and have a variety of health benefits. Making your own prunes is a fairly simple process, using either a dehydrator or an oven.
Here’s a list of black plum recipes for you to check out:
Health Benefits of Black Plums
Black plums have been used in traditional Indian and South Asian medicine for thousands of years. They stimulate the digestive track and promote gastrointestinal health. Plums are considered a “cold” herb that promotes urination and cleanses the liver.
Plums have also been proven to aid with constipation relief, reducing blood sugar, and controlling high blood pressure. The nutrients and phytochemicals in plums lower inflammation, making it a fruit that also fights against heart disease.
How to Grow Black Plum Trees
Because black plum trees are considered invasive, it’s important to take special care of your personal plants if you should decide to grow them at home or for small commercial use.
Black plum trees are evergreen and prefer tropical climates. Growing close to 100ft in height, the bark starts off dark and rough and becomes lighter higher up the tree. The leaves have a pink tinge to them when young and in maturity are thick and leathery with a dark green gloss. Many regions also use the leaves for livestock feed as they’re high in nutritional value.
In the right climate these trees begin to flower in March or early April. The blooms are fragrant and when fruit begins to develop it takes on an oblong shape. Immature fruit is green and shifts in color to pink and, eventually, deep red and black.
The black plum tree is a resilient species, but can be susceptible to black knot, canker, leaf spot, and brown rot. Brown rot in particular is hard to control as it isn’t noticeable until the spots appear on ripening fruit. The pest most common to plum trees of any kind is the plum curculio – a beetle that can cause fruit drop, decay, and scabbing.
The sweetness of plums can be controlled by how growers choose to supplement the tree’s nutrients. Proper fertilization, pruning, and supervision can guarantee that a plum tree will grow huge, healthy, and within its designated area. Most trees won’t bear fruit until 4-5 years of age or longer. The trees are self-pollinating, but cross pollination can be used to increase yields. For home gardens, one tree should be more than enough to produce a good amount of fruit.
Fun Facts About Black Plums
- One variety of the black plum tree actually produces white fruit.
- Common names for the black plum include Malabar plum, Java plum, jambolan, and jamun. They are sometimes incorrectly translated to “Indian blackberry.”
- In Indian culture, Krishna is understood to have symbols of four black plums on his right foot.
- In some cultures it is believed that plums aid in achieving smooth skin, as they have smooth skin of their own. People who eat one plum a day can get smoother skin.
- In a good year some trees can produce as much as 80-100lbs of fruit.