11 Facts you didn’t Know about Plums – Complete Guide

Is the plum the oldest of all fruits? It could be, thanks to the fact that cave paintings (drawings) of it have been found in Neolithic caves, being documented as one of the first fruits to be cultivated in human settlements.

If you want to know more interesting facts about this fruit such as its origin, varieties, benefits, and uses, among others, read on, you won’t regret it!

What are plums and what are their characteristics? 

Scientific nameEuropean Plum: Prunus Doméstica CiruelaJapanese: Prunus Salicina
Common namePlum or prune
Place of OriginWestern Asia and Eastern Europe
HabitatTemperate climates
DistributionIt grows in various temperate and certain tropical regions throughout the world.

Plum, as you can see, is the fruit of the plum tree. You can learn about its characteristics below.

Plum tree 

The plum tree is a member of the Rosaceae family (Rosaceae).

  • The European plum tree is tall and can reach 10 to 12 meters.
  • The Japanese plum tree is medium-sized and grows to a maximum of 6 meters tall.

Its trunk is usually brown and can be sometimes bluish-brown on the outer bark. It is smooth, but as it ages the tree will crack.

Plum tree roots and branches 

The roots can be 300 to 600 mm deep, so they are shallow and it varies according to the type of soil. Even so, they are long, strong, and resistant to infection and their shoots sprout steadily.

Plum trees have thin branches that can have different textures: smooth and without any bristles or hairs; or they can be the opposite, rough and hairy.

Plum tree leaves and flowers 

Its leaves are green, broad at the base, and sharp at the tip or the end of it. They are smooth on one side and have small hairs or bristles on the other side.

It has small white flowers that grow in clusters of 2 to 3 individual flowers. They grow from the first year onward.

These beautiful flowers are pollinated by bees which are attracted by the nectar they produce. For this reason, fruit growers are advised to be careful with pesticides because there may be beehives present on the trees.

Fun fact:

The plum blossom is regarded as the national flower of the Republic of China, Taiwan.

Plum fruit 

Plums are round or oval. They are composed of three main parts:

  1. The first is a thin skin with a smooth, waxy texture that covers the exterior of the fruit.
  2. The second is the pulp, which is soft but has a firm consistency and plenty of juice.
  3. And the third part is the central fragment of the plum, that is, the seed.

Types of plum 

Currently, there are countless varieties of plums in the world market so in this section you’ll learn about the most popular ones.

Damson plum

Japanese Plums (Prunus salicina

Japanese plums are characterized by being large and have a size similar to apples. They also ripen faster than the other species when special care is taken. Some types of this species are:

Black plum 

They are usually red to dark purple and when ripe, they become black with slight reddish tones. The pulp is yellow to light green, soft, and has plenty of juice. Its flavor is refreshing and not as sweet as other types of fruit.

Some varieties of the black plum are:

  • Black Ruby: the skin is red to brown and the flesh is yellow.
  • Friar: the skin is purple to dark black and has a small seed.
  • Black Beauty: the skin is red to dark purple with yellow flesh.

Red plum or red beauty 

Red plums are round, their skin is bright red or dark red depending on the stage of maturity of the fruit, and the flesh is yellow, sweet, and hard.

Yellow plums 

The size of yellow plums is variable, either small or large. The skin, of course, is yellow or light green with golden tones when more mature. The flesh has the same color as the skin and has a more acidic flavor comparable to lemon.

European Plums (Prunus domestica

These plum fruits usually have yellow or green flesh with a blue or red skin. They are characterized by an easy detachment of the seed. They are sweet in flavor and are therefore used for the production of prunes or jams.

Damson plum 

It has golden or red flesh with blue or purple skin. It has an oval shape and is small. It is characterized because in ancient times people used its skin to produce ink.

Mirabell plum 

They stand out for having a sweet and juicy flavor. They can have different colors such as yellow, red or golden. They are small in size and take about 6 weeks to ripen.


These plums are rounded in shape and have green or yellow colors on their skin. The pulp is usually red or yellow, with sweet and soft flavors, and is usually consumed fresh and raw.

Benefits and properties of plums 

Nutritional profile of plums 

Plums have been used since ancient times to treat certain health problems; for example, plums have been used in India to treat problems such as irregular menstruation in women.

So you can learn more about all the properties of this fruit, let us show you a nutritional table extracted from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA, 2020).

Product nutritional information: Raw plum 
Serving: 100g of plum
Water87,2 grams
Energy46 Calories
Protein0,7 grams
Total lipids (fats)0,28 grams
Carbohydrates11,4 grams
Sugars9,92 grams
Calcium6 grams
Iron0,17 grams
Magnesium7 grams
Phosphorus16 grams
Potassium157 grams
Sodium0 grams
Zinc0,1 grams
Copper0,057 milligrams
Selenium0 micrograms
Vitamin C9,5 milligrams
Thiamine0,028 milligrams
Riboflavin0,026 milligrams
Niacin0,417 milligrams
Vitamin B-60,029 milligrams
Vitamin A17 micrograms
Folate5 micrograms
Carotene190 micrograms
Kryptoxanthin35 micrograms
Vitamin K6,4 micrograms
Lutein x Zeaxanthin73 micrograms

Main properties of plums 

Digestive health 

Due to the fiber, sorbitol, and isatin content, this fruit can act as a natural laxative. This can help improve the functioning of the digestive system, allowing people to relieve symptoms of such conditions as constipation.

Rich in antioxidants 

Plums are rich in antioxidants including potassium, iron, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, magnesium, and fluoride.

And what are the benefits of antioxidants? Let me explain, they are responsible for protecting the body’s cells, helping to improve blood pressure, and heart rate, prevent premature aging, among other ailments caused by the lack of antioxidants in the body.

Rich in vitamins 

It contains vitamins A, C, E, K, B1, B2, B3 and B6, and its intake has great benefits for the body. For example, vitamin C helps to eliminate excess free radicals in the body, since the growth of these can cause damage to various organs.

On the other hand, vitamin A intake can protect the body from lung and mouth cancer. In addition, vitamin K is important because it contributes to the proper functioning of bone metabolism, and coagulation, and even the correct intake of this vitamin can help reduce Alzheimer’s disease in adults.

Skin health 

Thanks to the fact that plums contribute to good blood circulation, it helps to lighten or attenuate skin blemishes that appear for various reasons such as age or acne.

The antioxidants found in the fruit can also prevent fine lines and wrinkles because they promote the production of collagen.  

Origin of plums 

On the one hand, the European plum (prunus domestica) may have originated more than 2000 years ago in western Asia and eastern Europe in the Caucasus Mountains near the Caspian Sea. It’s said that this fruit was not found in the Pompeii expeditions where the oldest fruit seeds in the world were found.

So how did it originate? It’s believed that it resulted from hybridization between two species: prunus cerasifera and prunus Spinosa, giving rise to a new variety. This fruit was then introduced in America by English and Spanish missionaries.

On the other hand, the Japanese plum (prunus salicina) is also an important genus and, although named this way, it didn’t originate in this country. Actually, these species and their varieties originated in China where they stayed for thousands of years.

About 300 to 400 years ago they were introduced and adapted in Japan, and were distributed all over the world which led to this species being named as such.

Plum industry in the world 

Top 10 plum producers 

The world production of plums is estimated to be over 12 million tons. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the production in 2020 is distributed as follows:

  1. The largest world producer of this fruit is China, it produces more than half of the entire world’s production, and in 2020 it cultivated 6’465,219 tons.
  2. Rumania is the second largest producer with a total production of 757,880 million tons. In fact, this fruit is in the tenth place of the top 10 raw materials produced in that region.
  3. Serbia is a European country that produced 582.547 million tons of plums. Like Romania, plum occupies the eighth place in the top 10 of the most produced commodities in the region.
  4. Chile is the South American country that produces the most plums, with a production of around 416,215 million tons.
  5. The plum is quite well known in the Islamic Iran Republic, which in 2020 had a production of 375,867.
  6. Turkey is not far behind, producing 329.056 million tons.
  7. With 245.740 million tons, the United States of America ranks seventh.
  8. India produced 229.742 million tons of plums.
  9. France produced 200.980 million tons in 2020. In fact, the variety of this fruit called “Plum Queen Claudia” was named after France’s King Francis I’s wife.  
  10. And in last place is the Russian Federation with 182 billion tons.

Major plum exporters in the world 

To begin with, here is a chart with the countries that produce the most tons of plums. Chile is the only South American country on the list, being the largest exporter of fruit in the world. Then we have Asian and European countries that also protagonize this top 10.

According to FAO, the 10 largest plum exporters in tons in 2020 were:

PositionCountryExportations in Tons
China, Hong Kong.62.895
Continental China54.973
South Africa48.497
The Netherlands36.617

On the other hand, FAO also provides the countries that exported the most in monetary value, specifically in US dollars in 2020. Let’s see what they are:

PositionCountryValue in U.S. dollars US$
China, Hong Kong.96.050
Continental China94.899
The Netherlands65.576
South Africa57.236
United States50.526

Which countries import the most plums? 

Plums are coveted in many parts of the world; in 2020 the countries that imported the freshest plums in tons were:  

  1. Russian Federation: 74,927
  2. Continental China: 66,455
  3. China, Hong Kong: 52,413
  4. Germany: 52,413
  5. The Netherlands: 40,987
  6. United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: 36,359
  7. Iraq: 26,215
  8. Poland: 19,515
  9. United States: 18,888
  10. Canada: 15,556


From the above list, Turkey is one of the countries with the highest import tariffs for fresh plums with 55.5%.

How is plum cultivated? 

Plum blossom trees


The plum tree is planted in mild climates around 700 meters above sea level, but it also adapts quite well in more tropical climates around 1,500 to 2,300 meters above sea level.

This tree needs low temperatures to reach its resting or dormant state. This period is called dormancy, which in agricultural terms means that the tree is able to survive the winters and occurs once a year.

The plum tree must have a temperature between 2.5 °C and 12.5 °C for at least 850 to 1000 hours. It’s important to keep in mind that if the tree is partially exposed to low temperatures, the resting period will not be completed properly, so beware of cold snaps or late frosts, as they will damage both fruit and blossoms.

Rainfall is also of great importance in the cultivation of this fruit. Depending on the amount of rainfall that the tree receives, the additional amount of water that should be given to complete the needs of the plum tree will be calculated.

Likewise, the land used to cultivate this tree cannot have very strong winds because these can cause the branches, flowers and even the fruit to fall.


Plums can grow in different types of soil, but it’s recommended to have a minimum depth of 600 mm and that the soil is sandy loam or clay loam. It should be rich in organic matter and loose to allow good drainage of nutrients. And finally, the soil should have a pH of 5.5 to 6.5.


The plum tree can be propagated by seed, although this method is rarely used.

The most commonly used propagation strategy is by grafting from a plum tree; these should be healthy for good growth.

Plum production 

The plum tree has an average lifespan of 30 years. Depending on the climatic conditions to which it is exposed, the soil in which it is grown and the variety of fruit harvested, the trees may start to produce from the 3rd year onwards.

Postharvest and storage 

Plums are harvested when they have reddish and violet tones indicating that they are already ripe, and can also be recognized from the characteristic odor given off by the tree, which is a synonym that the fruits are ready to be harvested.

Usually, when plums are destined for export or import, they are harvested before they reach maturity and immediately stored in cold storage for their preservation since these fruits continue to ripen even after they have been harvested. They also must be kept in a humid environment to prevent them from drying out.

Plum diseases and insects 

Plum trees can be afflicted by different types of diseases or pests that can damage fruit production or even kill the tree. Here you’ll find some of the best-known ones.

Diseases affecting plum trees 

Foliar bacterial leaf spot 

It can be identified when the leaves of the tree begin to turn yellow or red with premature leaf drop. This bacterium can affect the tree’s resistance to cold, fruit quality and crack, and the vitality of the plum tree.

Monilinia fructicola 

Monilinia fructicola is a fungus that affects all the parts of the tree. When it appears, the blossoms begin to wilt, the fruit rots and a brown moldy coating develops around the fruit and can even harden when the tree lacks sufficient moisture.

This fungus is lethal as if left untreated the tree loses its vigor and can even lead to death.

Black knot 

It’s a fungus that affects prunus species. This disease can be identified when the branches turn light brown with shades of green. This infection usually occurs in the younger stages of the tree, and as it progresses the branches become surrounded by black knots.

It must be treated in time because if allowed to advance, the knots will have insects and eventually the disease will kill the tree.

Insects affecting plum trees 

Plum curculio 

This insect not only attacks plum trees but also apples, peaches, cherries, and pears.

Curculio overwinter under the tree parts. When the weather is warmer, they become active and feed on the flowers, leaves, and fruit. They cause plum drop for the above reason and also because they lay their eggs inside the fruit.

Japanese beetle 

This pest is more destructive during maturity.

The most common symptoms that occur when the insect is present are skeletal leaves; so called because the beetles eat the entire leaf except the veins. When the leaves are badly damaged they have brown tones and fall off quickly.

What products are made from plums? 

Handmade products made from plums 

Traditional Japanese wine 

In Japan, a wine called “umeshu” is made from Japanese green plums before ripening. This drink is one of the favorite drinks to be consumed in the summer, so families start making it before spring.

The umeshu is made inside a glass container that can be sealed after mixing the plums with sugar and liquor. This traditional wine takes at least 6 months to be ready because it must be left to age before being consumed; however, it is recommended to wait up to 9 months or even a year to get an even more exquisite taste.

Although making homemade liquor is illegal in Japan, making “umeshu” is not. But why is that? Making homemade alcoholic beverages in this country is legal as long as the liquor used has more than 20% alcohol by volume. In addition, the finished traditional wine must not have more than 1% alcohol in addition to the liquor used in its manufacture.

Plum-based industrial products 


You have probably tasted prunes, but do you know how are they made? This product is a dehydrated fruit and to make them, certain aspects must be taken into account from the time they are harvested.

The prunes must be ripe and firm which allows them to have a shiny black color. Subsequently, the leaves are removed with a machine or manually. They are washed and evenly distributed in trays.

And to dehydrate them, two methods can be used: the first is to dry them in the sun with drying racks, and the second is through ovens with temperatures between 80 °C to 90 °C.

Plum jam 

To get jam from this fruit, plums must be harvested ripe, fresh, and free of any substance harmful to health. Jams made from plums should have between 20% to 40% pulp content.

In addition, plums are ideal for making this product because they contain a component called pectin, which allows the jam to thicken naturally without adding commercial pectin.

On the other hand, other food products made from plums are:

  • Plum sauces
  • Bread
  • Compote
  • Jellies
  • Alcoholic beverages such as wines
  • Cakes
  • Mixtures of seeds and fruits such as flaxseed with plums
  • Among others

Plum-based cosmetic products 

Plum seed oil 

This oil, as the name says, is obtained from plum seeds. Plum seed oil is known to have a high concentration of vitamin E which can contribute to suppleness and hydration helping to treat dry skin with redness. In addition, the omega-6 it contains increases moisture retention in the hair making it healthier and shinier.

Some cosmetic products containing this oil are:

  • Lip moisturizers
  • Baby care products
  • Shampoos
  • Conditioners
  • Serums
  • Body lotions
  • Hand creams
  • Among others


The plum has been considered since long ago as a pleasant fruit and a luxurious dessert. As time goes by, more and more uses are given to it, being a favorite in many parts of the world.

We hope this article has been of interest to you. Finally, don’t hesitate to consume this exquisite fruit in any of its presentations.


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