Early plums are ones that ripen in July and early August. Opal is our recommended early dessert plum. It is a reddish purple plum with sweet yellow flesh which ripens in late July or early August. It is a Swedish variety and as such suitable even for colder northern regions. Don’t be put off by the rather tasteless Opals sometimes sold in supermarkets. Commercially grown plums are picked well before they are ripe for better shelf-life and are often lack flavour. Rivers Early Prolific is an excellent early culinary plum which makes very good plum jam. Although not strictly plums, some of the cherry plums provide an interesting early ripening fruit. Gypsy which is red and Golden Sphere which is yellow are both very tasty for eating fresh but also good for jam making.
Most plums and gages are mid season plums and ripen in the second half of August. Victoria is by far the best known and popular mid season plum. It is self -fertile and a prolific cropper, useful both as a dessert and culinary plum but rather disease prone. Avalon is another large red plum which we would recommend. Jubileum (also called Jubilee) is another modern Victoria alternative worth considering. Old Greengage is the classic greengage which is very sweet and tasty but self-sterile needing a pollinator. There are two good self-fertile gages you could consider as alternatives: Denniston’s Superb and Early Transparent Gage. Our recommendation for a mid season culinary plum for both plum jam and stewing is Purple Pershore.
Late plums and gages ripen in September. One of their advantages is that the cooler weather when they ripen means they last longer on the tree and are less likely to be attacked by wasps. However the risk, particularly in more northerly regions is that they fail to ripen well. Marjories Seedling is the best known late plum. Although often classified as a culinary plum it is actually much better as a dessert plum. Verity is another excellent late purple plum. Coe’s Golden Drop is a wonderful sweet September plum but is a light cropper. The continental plums known as Quetsche in France and Zwetsche in Germany are interesting alternative late culinary plums. Their firm relatively dry flesh makes them ideal for tarts and cakes as well as for drying. Quetsche d’Alsace is the most popular variety but Pozegaca has larger fruit. The damsons are also late ripening. Shropshire Prune is the best of the classic damsons. Merryweather is a larger damson the size of a small plum.
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