Mirabelle: a descendent of the Latin term ‘mirabilis,’ meaning, ‘of wondrous beauty.’ Mirabelle plums don’t carry this namesake for nothing.
So, what is a Mirabelle plum? What do they taste like? Will you ever get to eat one? Unless you grow your own, probably not. Luckily though, they’re not a very demanding tree.
This article will explore the fascinating life of the Mirabelle plum, how it came to be an outlaw on American shores, and what it looks and tastes like. We’ll also explore how you might grow your own little outlaw tree- it is, we’re glad to say, legal.
Mirabelle Plums- A Sweet, Seditious, Tasty Fruit
So, let’s get the first and foremost question out of the way. Before anyone starts growing a fruit tree, they sensibly would like to know what the fruits taste like. After all, you don’t want to go putting all your time and money into a pretty little Crabapple tree.
Mirabelle plums have a sweet, mellow taste, reminiscent of common plum varieties like the Santa Rosa.
So what makes them so unique? Why are Mirabelles so coveted, and why do you have to go to the internet just to find out what they taste like?
Well, as it turns out, the French are very protective of their culinary traditions. Just as real parmesan can only be imported from one region of Italy, real Mirabelles can only be imported from one part of France- Lorraine.
When large food companies started popping up, agricultural traditions centuries old were threatened. Thus, import restrictions were placed on various foods- from champagne to parmesan, all the way down to the unassuming Mirabelle.
So, why try a Mirabelle if they’re such a pain to get and taste much like more common plums?
Well, some say that the Mirabelle has a distinct and exotic background taste- something in the ballpark of banana or fresh pineapple.
They’re also a prized tree because of their beautiful, orb-like fruits, which shine yellow like the sun in July from the tree’s many branches.
As the fruits ripen, playful little freckles appear all across their faces. All lined up on their branches, high above the ground, they’re real eye-catchers.
In the springtime, Mirabelle trees bloom snow-white, brightening up the backyards of proud Mirabelle owners. They usually blossom anywhere from February to March and start to fruit in short order.
Can You Own a Mirabelle Plum Tree?
Luckily for American gardeners, it is not illegal for amateurs to grow Mirabelle plums in their backyard. What is unlawful is importing or selling commercially, so don’t take them down to the farmer’s market.
There are plenty of reasons why someone would want to own a Mirabelle plum tree. They pack an aesthetic punch that can’t be matched, from their beautiful white blossoms to their stunning yellow fruits.
Mirabelles are also prized for their use as a base for tart, sweet jams and jellies. Gardeners can use the fruits to make a sweet treat that can be enjoyed long after harvesting if kept at a low temperature.
But is owning a Mirabelle hard? What do you have to do to take care of it? Do you need other trees to pollinate them?
The Mirabelle Plum Tree: a Short Owner’s Guide
There are two methods for getting your hands on a Mirabelle plum tree: you can buy a sapling or cutting online or get a pit and nurse it into a sapling.
While nursing from a pit may sound difficult, it’s really not. When I used to ask my grandmother if there were any tricks to getting a seed to sprout, she used to tell me- stick ‘em in the dirt.
The hard part comes when you have to start taking care of a backyard orchard-of-one and dealing with all the soil fertilization, irrigation, and pruning that comes along with that.
The first thing a prospective Mirabelle owner should do is prepare their soil. Mirabelle plums require soil with good drainage, so gardeners in areas with clay soils may have to put additives into their soil to make it more porous.
You can check to see if your soil is clay by balling it up in your hands. If it falls apart, it’s not clay. If it hangs tough, you’ve got good old, hard-tack, unporous clay- which does not drain well.
You should also buy and apply any additives you need to get your soil Ph anywhere from 5.5 to 6.5. Correct soil acidity is crucial for growing fruit trees.
Finally, make sure you’re planting your Mirabelle in a full-sun area, far away from shady houses or trees. Just like other fruit trees, Mirabelles require ample sunlight to survive and thrive, and you won’t be harvesting ripe yellow Mirabelles without a bright, sunny backyard.
Once the tree is in the ground, there are a few steps you can take to ensure that it matures in the correct amount of time and has successful, fruitful fruiting periods.
Applying calcium nitrate to the ground during the first and second years of growth will help your tree along. Simply take one cup of the stuff, and apply it to the top layer of your soil. Water and chemistry will do the rest.
Give your tree plenty of water during growing seasons. Proper irrigation will keep your tree healthy and ensure a fabulous bloom. To keep some of the moisture around, try laying out mulch around the base of your tree.
Make sure to prune your trees when they are mature, clearing away the pruned branches from the base of your tree. Dead branches are an excellent house for aphids and other damaging insects, which attack your tree and decrease its fruiting capacity.
While you’re at it, trim and weeds or tall grasses from the base of your Mirabelle. Having a successful fruiting season requires that you remove any potential homes for pests and create a safe environment for your tree to thrive.
Finally, make sure to apply an organic fertilizer to the tree’s base during the first and second years of growth. Those growing roots need nutrients, and the extra food you give them will pay off later.
What to Do With Mirabelle Plums
Alright, so you’ve put in the work, and it’s paid off. Your backyard is now the envy of the entire neighborhood because you’ve got a spectacular, golden-fruited Mirabelle thriving in it. And you’ve just had your first harvest.
That’s a lot of plums, though, and aside from eating them, which you might not be able to do before they go bad, you might not know what you can do with them.
Here are a few fun tips for your Mirabelle plums.
If you’re a smoothie lover like I am, you can try freezing your Mirabelles. The tartness and tropical zest they’ll introduce to a bland, run-of-the-mill strawberry banana will brighten your day and give you a burst of energy.
Plums are very healthy, nutritious fruits- a good source of vitamins and minerals and an excellent way to reduce your risk of chronic diseases like osteoporosis.
Sort of on the opposite end of the spectrum, you might try drying your plums. Fruits can be dried out in a dehydrator, the oven, or the good old-fashioned way- in the sun.
Dried fruits are a great healthy snack for anyone who wants a quick, cheap burst of energy. Plus, many people find that drying their fruits adds a mushy, sugary texture to them, a candy-like delight for dieting adults.
Did we mention diets? We’re sorry, but we’re going to have to tempt you with this next tip. Like any other fruit, Plums can be baked into pies and tarts for a delicious, soulful treat.
I would recommend baking Mirabelles into a tart, as their zingy flavor will finish the desert just as it was meant to be. It’s in the name, after all- they’re supposed to be tart.
Speaking of tart, why not try turning Mirabelles into a sweet, juicy jam? Mirabelle jam is a coveted product worldwide and will turn your PB&J from a monotonous and somewhat depressing meal to an exotic, hard-earned treat.
Finally, you might try canning your plums and enjoying them all year round. Canning supplies can be found online or even in your local grocery store. They’re inexpensive, and canning fruits is a great way to save money throughout the year. You’ve seen how high raspberry prices can get, after all.
All in all, if you get your eager hands on a sapling Mirabelle and decide to put in the work yo grow one, you’ll be rewarded with a delicious, eye-catching harvest of sweet and exotic fruits worthy of the name ‘good-looking.’ Mirabelles, although illegal to import, are legal to grow and eat in the United States, and make an excellent addition to the amateur orchard, or just an empty backyard.
Why go for a Santa Rosa when you can get something unique and exotic out of the Mirabelle?