If you are lucky enough to have a productive plum tree in your garden producing buckets full of plums, then you may be familiar with the overwhelming task of harvesting and processing all of your fruit. If you have a heavily laden plum tree, the fruiting can be so prolific that branches can break!
One year, we lost a large limb on one of our plum trees due to overloading. (Fortunately, the fruits were ripe, and so we were still able to make use of them.)
But when you have so many plums, it can be difficult to know what to do with them. To help you work out how to prevent any from going to waste, here is a list of suggestions for things to do with a glut of plums from your garden:
1. Eat Them Fresh
Of course, the number one way to eat plums from your garden is to eat them fresh – straight from the tree. The juicy and delicious fruits are great to bite into without any processing or cooking at all. You can just eat one as is, or halve and de-stone them and add them to a fruit salad or another simple and wholesome dish.
You will know when they are ready to harvest and eat when the flesh softens and will squish when gently squeezed. The fruits will also have their ripe colour – which can vary from a deep purple or red to yellow or even green depending on the variety.
The best way to tell whether plums are ready to harvest is to taste them. Simply bite into a plum – if it yields easily and tastes sweet and good, then it is time to gather in your fruits.
In addition to eating fresh as they are, you can also consider halving and de-stoning them and freezing them for later. While they will mush a little when thawed, they will still be great for many of the options described below.
2. Juice Your Plums
If you have a huge number of fruits to deal with – too many to eat them all fresh, consider juicing some. Juicing them will allow you to imbibe their goodness and enjoy the fresh taste while using up a lot more fruit in one go. While drinking fruit juice will not be as good for you as eating the whole fruit, it can be a great way to make sure that you get your ‘five a day’.
You can simply juice them and drink them up right away or pasteurize your plum juice in a canner or large pan of boiling water in order to keep it for longer. As long as you leave space in containers for the liquid to expand, you can also freeze plum juice for later use.
3. Make Plums into Jam
One of my favorite ways to use up a glut is by making plum jam. There is a wide range of recipes out there to choose from. Personally, I enjoy a spiced plum jam, which combines the fruits with sugar, cinnamon and ginger to add a little something without overpowering the flavor of the fruit.
To make my plum jam:
- Wash, halve and de-stone the fruits. (In this case, around 3.3lbs)
- Place these in a large, heavy pan with around 5oz of water.
- Boil the fruits until they have broken down into mush.
- Add 5 cups of sugar. (More if you like a sweeter jam.)
- Add cinnamon and ginger (to taste).
- Bring to a rolling boil.
- Take the jam to setting point. (Testing with the wrinkle test on a cool spoon. When ready, the jam will form wrinkles when you push a finger through the blob.)
- Add the jam to sterilized jars.
- Leave to cool, label and then store in a cool location.
This year, I also made a batch of plum and blackberry jam – so what with those and my apple butter, we’ll have plenty of options to spread on our toast over the coming months.
4. Make Plum Chutney
Another delicious preserve that you can make using a glut from your garden is plum chutney. Again, there are plenty of different recipes to choose from, like this one from Greatist.
Chutney can go well with cheese or bread sandwiches later in the year. A richly spiced plum chutney could also make a lovely Christmas gift for friends or family later in the year.
5. Pickle Plums
Another delicious preserve that you can make with your harvest is pickled plums. These also go very well with a cheese plate.
Here’s a great recipe from FoodAndWine.com for salty-sweet- spiced pickled plums.
6. Dry Plums to Make Prunes
Another way to preserve your harvest is to dehydrate them to make prunes. Here’s a great guide for dehydrating plums in the dehydrator or oven.
You can leave them to dry to plump prunes that can be eaten right away or dry them a little more for later rehydration in a range of recipes.
7. Add Plums to Breakfast Flapjacks
One thing that we like to do with plums (or prunes) in our household is to add them to healthy flapjacks, sometimes along with other late summer or autumn fruits.
8. Make Plum Oatmeal
Your harvest can also be enjoyed as a healthy breakfast in other ways. In the winter months, stewed, they are ideal for adding to a hearty bowl of porridge. Alternatively, you can make cool ‘overnight oats’ by layering up some oats, yogurt, plum compote and seeds etc., in a jar and leaving it in the fridge overnight before eating for breakfast.
9. Enjoy a Plum Salad
These fruits also work well, both fresh and cooked, in a range of cold and warm salads. Simply adding a few halved plums, along with some nuts or seeds, to a mixed green leafy salad can add some interest to the dish. Another popular salad in our house is a warm rice salad with plums, spinach greens and beans or pulses.
10. Make a Tabbouleh
World cuisines offer plenty of inspiration for plum recipes. One delicious dish that you could try is plum tabbouleh. Add some fresh, ripe fruits, scallions, finely chopped red chilies, mint and parsley to bulgar wheat and dress this with olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. You can vary this recipe by using couscous, quinoa or brown rice in place of the bulgar wheat.
11. Make Chinese Plum Sauce
Another enticing condiment is Chinese plum sauce. The key to creating a good plum sauce is to balance the sweet, sour and umami flavors to create a versatile dipping sauce that can be used with a wide range of dishes.
Blend the fruits with onion, apple cider vinegar, honey, fresh ginger, garlic, salt and allspice (or cinnamon, cloves, anise, fennel etc..) into a smooth paste. If you want to keep your Chinese plum sauce for longer, you can whip up a batch and preserve it by placing it in sterilized jars in a hot water canner for around 15 minutes. Once canned, this will keep in a cool place for up to a year.
12. Make a Plum Curry
You may not think to use fruit in curries but in fact, plums can replace tomatoes in a range of recipes – providing a similar richness and depth of flavor.
This spicy lamb and plum curry is one excellent curry dish to try with your plums.
13. Poach Some for Dessert
Of course, plums are not only good for savory dishes, they can also work well in a range of desserts. Of course, you could simply add fresh plums to a simple fruit salad, but there is also a range of plum recipes that you can cook up for after your main meal. One of the easiest involves simply poaching your fruit in a sweet or richly spiced syrup, such as these red wine poached plums. These are delicious when served simply with cream, custard or ice cream.
14. Make Some Sugared Plums
Another easy way to create a sweet treat is sugared plums. Simply to roll fresh plums in egg white, then in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar until they are well coated with a sugary crust. Space these in a buttered baking dish and then bake at 350F until the fruits are crusty and juicy.
15. Make a Crumble
Another classic and iconic dessert idea is a plum crumble. A crumble is a mix of stewed fruit beneath a sweet crumbly crust of flour, butter or spread, and sugar, mixed to a breadcrumb-like texture between the fingers. One variation on this that we enjoy is a crumble topping that includes oats and some mixed seeds. Plums can be used alone or combined with apples or other fall fruits like blackberries for this dish.
16. Make a Puff Pastry
Even if you are not skilled enough in the culinary department to make your own pastry, this recipe allows you to use a sheet of purchased puff pastry. Heat your oven to 400F and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Unroll a roll of puff pastry onto the tray and sprinkle chopped plumbs, sugar and ground almonds over the top. Bake for 18-20 minutes until the pastry is golden and risen, then sprinkle on a little more sugar and serve.
17. Make a Plum Tart
If you fancy trying something a little more complex, how about trying your hand at making your own pastry crust and filling your tart with fresh sliced plums on top of a layer of almond frangipane? Serve this tart slightly warm with a dollop of cream, perhaps. Your friends and family are sure to be very impressed by your culinary prowess.
18. Make a Plum Chocolate Cake
Another impressive treat that you can create for your friends and family is a rich and sticky plum chocolate cake. There are plenty of different recipes that you can choose from. Mine is as follows:
- 180g self-raising flour
- The same weight of olive spread
- 180g sugar
- 100g cocoa powder
- Around 10 plums (chopped)
- 3 large tbsp plum jam
- 3 large free-range eggs
- ground almonds for topping (optional)
Mix the spread and sugar, then add the flour, cocoa and eggs. Add the chopped plums and mix well.
Scoop this mix into two greased cake tins, then bake at 350 degrees until the cake has risen and firm and a skewer comes out clean. Remove the cake halves from the tins and leave them to cool. Once cool, sandwich the layers together with plum jam and top with ground almonds.
19. Make a Gingery Plum Cake
Another cake that you could make using some of your harvest is a gingery plum cake. An upside-down cake, for this recipe, you layer halved fruits on the base of a lined cake tin, then top with a cake mix of:
- 175g butter
- 175g sugar
- 140g golden syrup
- 2 eggs
- 200ml milk
- 300g self-raising flour
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tbsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp cinnamon
Melt the butter (or spread), sugar and syrup in a large pan, stirring until smooth. Cool for ten minutes, then add eggs and milk, sift in the flour and spices, then mix to a smooth batter and pour them over the fruit. Bake the cake at 350F for around 45 minutes until it is firm, then cool.
20. Bake a Plum & Almond Pudding
You could also make a plum and almond pudding. This warming treat is wonderful as the nights begin to cool. Add your fruits, cinnamon and lemon zest to a bowl and then make a batter of 100g butter , 100g light brown sugar, 2 eggs, 100g self-raising flour and 50g ground almonds. Sprinkle over flaked almonds (optional) then bake for 35-40 minutes at 350F. Serve warm.
21. Make a Refrigerator Cheesecake
This super easy dessert does not even need any baking at all. Make a simple cheesecake base with crushed biscuits and butter or spread, then spoon over a mix of cream cheese and sugar and top with a cooled plum compote. Leave the mix in the fridge until you are ready to serve.
22. Make Plum Ice Cream
If you have an ice cream maker, you could also consider blending some plums and adding them to ice cream. Plum and ginger ice cream is a particularly delicious combination, though there are plenty of other recipes out there to choose from.
23. Make Plum Wine
Another interesting way to make use of your plums is to make some plum wine. Of course, you will need to invest in some wine-making equipment and make sure that everything is properly sterilized, but if you do, the process from then on is relatively easy and straightforward. A simple plum wine recipe can be found here:
Plum Wine@ andhereweare.net
24. Make Plum Cocktails
You could also simply combine some of your fruits with other alcoholic drinks to make a range of cocktails. Some enticing suggestions include plum daiquiris, a plum gin sour, or a plum bourbon cooler… though you will find plenty of recipes out there. Why not experiment a little the next time you have some friends round?
Plum trees are an incredibly useful thing to grow in your garden. Even if you have a glut, as you can see from the list of options given above, there is no need to waste even a single one. I’ve given a few away to family – as well as processing them myself – and now there are just a few left to enjoy.