Recognised for their tart flavour and diverse colours, wild plums are native to prairies and woodlands. These plums contain smooth skin that protects their juicy, yellow flesh. Knowing when to pick wild plums is essential to their flavour in jellies, jams, sauces and various dishes. Under-ripe wild plums often taste tangy and bitter, while overripe wild plums are generally mushy and decayed. Although wild plums generally ripen in late summer months, don't automatically assume they are ready for picking. Wild plums display certain characteristics that indicate when they are ripe.
- Skill level:
Examine the plums' skin colour to help determine whether the fruit is ripe. Deep, rich colours usually signify that wild plums are ripe, while pale, light colours generally indicate that plums need more time to ripen. However, do not determine the plums' ripeness solely on their skin colour.
Squeeze the plums gently between your fingers to determine how soft or firm the plums' flesh is. Ripe wild plums generally yield to gentle pressure while immature plums are hard.
Shake the branch to determine which wild plums are ripe. Vine movement causes ripe plums to fall off twigs with ease, while unripe plums remain firmly attached. However, some ripe plums may remain attached.
Pull at any remaining ripe-looking wild plums without picking them. Ripe plums separate from the vine with only slight force. Immature wild plums require yanking to detach them from the vine.
Tips and warnings
- Wild plum thickets contain pointed thorns, which are often sharp.
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