Prune Plums: Not That Sweet, Not That Juicy, Not Worth Your Time?

September  6, 2015

Should you fall for the final stone fruit of summer?

Prune Plums

The nights are getting colder and I’ve reached for an extra layer more times in the past few days than I’d like to admit. I know, the weather is a boring topic to begin with, and it’s even more of a bummer to talk about the fact that summer is almost over.

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I can’t help it, though—as much as I love cozy sweaters and hot apple cider, nothing turns me into a petulant child faster than being cold (or hangry). So with the first hints of autumn's arrival it’s all I can do not to cross my arms and pout, and wonder if I just wore my sandals for the last time this year and more importantly: Did I eat enough corn, tomatoes, and apricots?

While I’m not guaranteed another day warm enough to make ice cream start dripping as soon as it's served, at least Mother Nature is here to pacify me with a gift: one final round of stone fruits. Prune plums are available now, and despite their lackluster attempt at a first impression, you won't want to miss out.

Prune Plums

Prune plums might not look like much: They’re smaller, firmer, and more egg-shaped than other types of plums (see 1 versus 2, above) and their beautiful inky-purple coloring is hidden behind splotchy patches of white bloom. And you might not be impressed with an initial taste, either: They’re certainly fine for eating out of hand, but they aren’t particularly juicy or especially sweet. 

But, cook them, and you, too, might be pacified into thinking that crisp mornings and falling leaves just might be okay. Like a Hypercolor t-shirt changed by the warmth of your hand, the yellow flesh (4, below) of prune plums morphs into a vivid fuschia once cooked. Being less juicy becomes a good thing when they're cooked as well—their flavor intensifies rather than seeps out. And as a final bonus, you won't have to fight with the pits: Prune plums are freestone, so their pits are easily removed (3, below).

More: Save your stone fruit pits—to make ice cream.

Now that you're convinced this fruit is, well, plum perfect, here are some ways to start cooking with prune plums.

Tell us: What are your favorite ways to use prune plums?

Photos by James Ransom

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Jessie Johns
    Jessie Johns
  • Doug R.
    Doug R.
  • burning-ice
  • Elizabeth Swan
    Elizabeth Swan
  • Beautiful, Memorable Food
    Beautiful, Memorable Food
I like esoteric facts about vegetables. Author of the IACP Award-nominated cookbook, Cooking with Scraps.


Jessie J. September 8, 2015
They are wonderful in jam - a mix of apple and plum is good, even better is a mix of apple, pear and plum (equal parts of each fruit).
Doug R. September 8, 2015
We can't wait for these to hit the stores. My wife makes a fantastic tart from them.
burning-ice September 7, 2015
Classic German end-of-summer cake: a basic sweet yeast dough, put on a baking sheet. Push halved prunes with the round side into the cake. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar. Bake and enjoy in the garden with some whipped cream.

Or you could put streusels and cut up walnuts on top, but it's not necessary.
Elizabeth S. September 6, 2015
Prune are wonderful frozen. Cut in half to de-pip, pop into freezer bags and freeze. You can use them frozen to make delicious smoothies or let them defrost and they create a thick syrup all on their own without any sugar.
Beautiful, M. September 6, 2015
I have 4 of these trees in my garden, so I'm always blessed with a bounty. Here's my jam recipe
Kathleen A. September 6, 2015
Stone the fruit roll them in sugar. Enclose them in Perogies dough boil them and serve them with butter and sautéed onions. That how my Babu made them for me long years ago.
Chris G. September 6, 2015
By the way, I forgot to thank you for the article and all the links for prune-plum/Italian Plum recipes! I did make MrsWheelbarrow's recipe for Plum sauce several years ago, it turned out wonderfully, knowing me I probably tinkered with the recipe a little bit, but it was wonderful, thank you MrsWheelbarrow for the wonderful plum sauce recipe & Lindsay-Jean, again thank you for this compilation of recipes.
Chris G. September 6, 2015
Wise Geek (everything you wanted to know about "Italian plums" or "prune plums.")

I had to put "Italian Plum" in quotes to search..otherwise you get all kinds of stuff about "plumb bobs" and other stuff! There are lots of recipes and stuff in the search related stuff, that is! How to grow and prune the trees and etc.

"Italian Plum" (how to prune the trees, lots of articles on how to grow and what to do with the fruit-chris)

I hope this does not sound "snarky"...I have been around Italian Plum trees all my life, a long time, and this year was a bad year hear in Western Washington for Italian plums. It was cold and wet when they bloomed and very few of the flowers were pollinated. I did not get one single Plum from my tree. Everything loves to eat them...squirrels, birds and yellow jackets and other bees! The reason I'm commenting on this is your pictures are of partially ripened Italian or Prune Plums. The Prune Plum trees tend to self-thin and lots of the plums fall to the ground before achieving full ripe-ness! The ripe fruit being a dark yellow, very sweet flesh, and of course purple on the outside. The plums will eventually turn mushy, but they do not seem to ferment, the will rot first, has been my experience and as the Wise Geek article so states. I forgot to mention that there are worms that like these plums too. In good years the trees are very prolific, and the pits are very prolific also, it seems like almost everyone that falls to the ground, if you don't pick it up and get rid of it, turns into a new plum seedling! Anyway, as I said, the trees produce a lot of plums in a good year and you'll have lots to cook with, eat out of hand and give away!!!