How to Spot the Perfect Plum

From color to firmness, follow these tips for picking a ripe, juicy plum every time.

Make sure the color of the plum is even all the way around. (Photo: Kyselova Inna/Shutterstock)

Ripe, juicy plums are sweet and delicious. They're a treat to bite into, and they're great for making crisps, pies, jams, and even ice cream. I like to use them in plum clafoutis, an eggy breakfast/brunch dish that's part custard, part cake, and part soufflé, and doubles as a dessert.

All of these dishes are best when the plums are perfectly ripe, but sometimes it's hard to know exactly when that is. Here's some advice on how to tell if a plum is ripe and ready for both eating and cooking.

Look at the Color

Most of the plums sold in grocery stores are a deep red/purple or a lighter red (almost like a Rome apple). You may see more varieties at the farmers market, including the wonderful little yellow ones. Whatever the color, make sure the hue is even all around. A ripe plum has consistent coloration. If you see any green, the plum was picked too soon.

Inspect the Skin

If there are blemishes, bruises, or cuts on the skin, it may have started to rot inside. If the skin is wrinkled, it may have lost its freshness, so look for a smooth, firm skin.

Squeeze the Blossom End

The blossom end is opposite the stem. It should have a little give to it, but it shouldn't be mushy or squishy or at risk of splatting if it were to fall on the ground. If it's hard, it's not ripe.

A hard plum will get softer if you put it in a paper bag for a day or two, but its flavor will not continue to mature. If it was unripe when you got it, it will probably taste unripe even if it's softened, since sugars rely on the tree to develop.

Feel Its Weight

A plum should have some weight to it because of its water content. If it feels nice and weighty in the palm of your hand—almost too heavy for its size—that's a good sign. If it feels light, the water has started to evaporate, and the plum may not be fresh.

Check Its Scent

A perfectly ripe plum will smell sweet and fruity. An unripe plum will have little to no scent at all. No smell generally means no taste. Use your nose to sniff out the most aromatic options in the produce section and your tastebuds will be happy.

Hopefully these tips will equip you with confidence when it comes to sniffing out the ripest, most delicious plums, and help you make the most of their fleeting season.