Wild American Plums

This article is part of our “trees for bees” series where we feature trees/shrubs that are excellent pollinator forage

plumsOne of my favorite “wild” foods to forage is the Wild American Plum.  It comes in a variety of colors and flavors. They range from yellow, to yellowish-red, to light purple-red, to deep purple. I find the skin of darker purple plums to be more bitter than the yellowish ones. But they all cook up to make a fantastic jam.

Usually, the inside of the fruit is nice and sweet – with an apricot flavor. The skins vary in tartness and bitterness. In the wild, I often eat the inside fruit and spit the skin.

When I’m preparing a batch of jam, I cook them with the skin on and then run all of it  through a foley mill. If I am making “prunes” then I try to choose the most yellow or red colored plums to dehydrate.
freshWe have some fantastic plums on our farm. Most of them grow along the woodland edge – near the river and swamps. They can grow as bushes or trees – depending on pruning.

In addition to the American plum, we also grow beach plums and some named varieties.

Still, the wild American plum is my favorite. We save the seed from our best plums and also propagate them by digging out suckers, air layering, and by rooting cuttings.

These little babies are delicious – sweet and juicy with just a hint of sour. They are pretty small but the plants are prolific. The fruit to pit ratio is also pretty reasonable. The plants are super hardy.

They withstand our extreme temperatures – zone 4a in central Minnesota – and our droughty soils. We have almost pure sand on our farm and the trees do just fine.

They are great fresh, dried, sauced, baked into desserts, or made into jam.

We do all of the above.

The first step is to cut out the pit. That’s easy to do and if they are super ripe, you can just squeeze it out.skin

bag of pitsWe save the uncooked “pits” as seeds for new trees. You can buy some of them here.The fruit can be frozen once the pit is removed – and saved for use in cakes, sauces, and muffins.

Or you can puree it for smoothies.  Our favorite way to use the puree is in a tasty sweet and sour dipping sauce.freezing plum

They are also great  for fresh eating and for sauces/jams. It is so easy. You do not need pectin.. Just sugar and plums, maybe a splash of lemon juice.  Cut the pit out, cook until they are soft, then either mash or run through a foley mill.

plum puree

Remove the skins with a foley mill and finish it up like any other jam.

plum sauce

The jam is sweet and tart. There really is nothing else like it. It tastes amazing!plum jam

You can even make “prunes” or more accurately, “dried plums.”

They do not look like prunes from the store. They are orange/pink and a little tart. But I like them and actually prefer to preserve large quantities this way because it saves space, is not dependent on electricity, and doesn’t add a ton of sugar to our diet.

The fruit leather is a beautiful pink. This is just plums and a little sugar. I like them tart (as they would be without the sugar) but they are good both ways. You can use much less sugar than you would for a jam because  you are not needing the sugar for preservation.

No matter how you slice it, these plums are the bomb. I really like them and I hope everyone gets a chance to try these sweet little gems at some point in their life. They are delicious and provide good, native food to humans and wildlife.

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