I harvested my favourite fruit today – Japanese plum (Prunus salicina) They look like the sort of plum you would get in the shops, with one subtle difference – they have flavour! Not just any old flavour, but the richest, most complex flavour I have ever come across in a plum, plus a juicy, melt-in-the-mouth texture. In fact, they are the same species as the hard, tasteless supermarket ones, but growing your own allows you to harvest them ripe and experience them as they really should be.
Nor are the virtues of Japanese plums limited to eating raw. They are surprisingly good cooked in savoury dishes: they are great frittered and the plum stir-fry season is one of the keenly awaited annual culinary milestones in my household. They also make an exceptionally good fruit leather, either on their own or in mixes with other fruit. My favourite fruit leather of all is pure Japanese plum with a little bit of ginger added. They can also be into thin strips and dried. The result is very tasty and stores well. On the other hand, Japanese plum jam is only okay – I think that tarter plums such as cherry plums generally make better jams.
Their all round deliciousness isn’t lost on the local wildlife and the big hazard with Japanese plums is that the birds and wasps will get them before you do. Fortunately, they ripen up well on the window sill if you pick them a few days early and that is what I generally do.
I am always surprised that Japanese plums haven’t become more popular in Britain. Perhaps it’s because most fruit guides will tell you that they aren’t very hardy here, but my biggest tree has been growing for over two decades in Aberdeen and fruits well every year. I strongly recommend seeking out the cultivar ‘Methley. which I believe my original tree to be. I have planted some other cultivars since, without nearly such good results. Unfortunately the two nurseries I have bought trees from in the past both seem to have gone bust, but Orange Pippin Trees sometimes have stocks.