European plum trees (Prunus domestica) and Japanese plum trees (Prunus salicina) often require little more than well-drained soil and full-sun exposure where they're hardy, U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 9. These trees aren't difficult to grow, so gardeners may find themselves with excess plums at the end of the growing season. If you end up with too many plums, though, don't fret. You have several options for handling your overabundance of fruit.
For someone who enjoys juicy plums, eating them fresh is a delight. You can also use plums in several ways in the kitchen.
Although the plum may not have the reputation of its close cousin, the peach (Prunus persica, USDA zones 5 through 8), it performs well in baked goods such as pies and cobblers.
Hot and Sweet
Cooking plums can give you a different twist on the classic favorite. Just like similar fruits, plums do well when halved and roasted in an oven, poached or stewed.
Halve some plums, and throw them on a grill for a short time for a sweet addition to a summertime cookout.
Canning, freezing and drying all work well with plums, allowing you to savor the fresh, sweet taste of the fruits long after harvest.
To dry plums, first wash them, halve them, and remove and dispose of the pits. Then dry them, cut side up, at 130 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit in an oven or a food dehydrator until they're pliant and leathery -- they'll be on the chewy side.
Canning plums doesn't require a pressure canner; you can process them safely in a boiling water canner.
Things You'll Need
1-pint canning jars
Plastic implement, such as a spatula or picnic knife
Jar lifter or wide tongs
Boiling water canner with rack
Towel, cooling rack or trivet
Step 1: Make a Syrup
- Mix 5 3/4 cups of water with 1 1/2 cups of sugar in a saucepan to create a light syrup for about 9 pints of fruit.
- Place the saucepan on a burner and bring the mixture to a boil.
Step 2: Can the Plums
- Wash plums with water and fruit-wash spray.
- Prick the plums twice with the tines of a fork.
- Place the plums in 1-pint canning jars.
- Pour the boiling syrup over the plums, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace -- the amount of space between the surface of the food and the top of the jar -- in each jar.
- Insert a clean plastic spatula or picnic knife into the canning jar between the side of the jar and the food, and turn the jar slowly as you push the implement in and out of the jar to release air bubbles.
- Wipe the lids and rims of the jars clean and place the lids, rubber gaskets down, on the jars, followed by screw-on bands to hold the lids in place.
- Insert a canner rack in a boiling water canner, fill the canner about half full of water and set it on a burner. Heat the water to about 140 F.
- Use a jar lifter to place the jars of fruit on the rack in the canner and add water till the tops of the jars are submerged by at least an inch.
- Place the lid on the canner and turn the burner up all the way, heating the water till it boils. Continue boilng for 20 minutes. Keep the canner covered during processing, adding boiling water as needed to keep the tops of the jar lids submerged.
- Remove the canner from the burner when the required boiling time is complete and set the lid aside.
- Wait five minutes, and then remove the jars from the canner using a jar lifter or wide tongs -- ensure you have a good grip on the jars and avoid tilting them.
- Set the jars on a thick towel, cooling rack or trivet, and allow them to cool without touching or moving them for 12 to 24 hours. You may hear the lids pop as the jars are cooling, which means they're sealed.
- After the jars have cooled completely, check the lids to make sure they're sealed: A concave or cupped lid that doesn't move when you press it with your finger is sealed.
If you discover a faulty seal within 24 hours of processing the fruit, you can either reprocess it from scratch, refrigerate it and use it within a couple of days, or freeze it.
Never eat any food that appears to be spoiled or that's in a canning jar with a convex or swollen lid.
If you have too many plums to preserve or eat fresh, you still have options for using your leftover harvest. Contact food banks to learn whether they can use fresh fruit; the answer is almost always "yes."
You can also share plums with friends and family or trade your plums for another type of produce.
Several websites and organizations have information about how to find food banks and similar locations quickly for drop off of excess produce.
- National Center for Home Food Preservation: Selecting, Preparing and Canning Fruit
- Clemson Cooperative Extension Home & Garden Information Center: Common Canning Problems
- National Center for Home Food Preservation: Using Boiling Water Canners
- United States Department of Agriculture: Complete Guide to Home Canning, Guide 1