What I Do With Homegrown Plums

Never feel daunted by an abundant crop with these preservation strategies.

woman picking plums in orchard

Ashley Cooper / Getty Images

I can see the plums ripening in the forest garden. Though they will not be ready to harvest for another month or so, I like to plan ahead and am already thinking about what I'll do with my harvest this year.

When we moved into our current property back in 2014, we inherited a number of mature fruit trees in a walled orchard, including a couple of plum trees. One of those plum trees was very old and, sadly, had to be replaced. But the other is a large and often abundant tree—an old Victoria plum or something related. I added a second plum tree a couple of years ago, though it has yet to provide more than a scattered handful of fruits.

Even with just one large plum tree, the amount of harvest we get is astounding. In a good year, I can easily harvest over 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of fruit from this single large tree. Sometimes branches have to be supported to stop them from breaking under the weight of the fruit.

When I first moved here, having never had a plum tree before, I was rather overwhelmed by the amount of fruit we had to deal with—especially since we were dealing with many apple trees and other fruits, too. But over time I have learned how to make the most of our plums, as well as the other produce we grow.

So, I thought that I would share some of the ways in which I use my plums, in order to help others who might be looking for inspiration for their own harvest.

Eating Fresh Plums

Since our plums are good for eating, in addition to cooking and making preserves, we do eat plenty of them straight from the tree. But there are only so many plums that you can just eat fresh, on their own.

We add plums to a range of different salads, where they pair well with leafy greens, nuts, seeds, or accompanying grains like couscous or a spiced rice dish, for example.

We also juice plums to use as a drink on their own or sweetened with honey and combined with other fruits. You might freeze some to make ice lollipops or to use in cocktails for a more grown-up treat.

basket of purple plums

Christoph Wagner / Getty Images

Cooking With Plums

Making a range of sweet desserts like pies, puddings, crumbles,  cakes, or muffins is an obvious way to use up some of your harvest. But plums can work well in savory dishes, too. I make a spiced plum sauce, which can be used as a side dish or to coat a nut roast or vegetable roast as a sticky glaze. I have also added plums to spicy, curry-type dishes. 

Preserving Plums

The bulk of my harvest, however, will be preserve for later use. I sometimes dry plums for a supply of prunes. But since we dry in the oven and don't eat all that many, I usually only do this with a small portion of the harvest. 

I have also made a plum fruit leather which we quite enjoy as a snack—though again, I usually only make a little of this since it is not something we eat all the time. 

For the most part, I can preserves using a simple water bath canning method. Our favorites are plum and ginger jam and plum chutney, though I tend to try out a couple new recipes each year. Others that we have liked include a plum barbecue sauce and a sweet-and-sour sauce. 

I am lucky enough to have created a walk-in cold store pantry space in our stone barn conversion project. And that is where I keep all my preserves. I am very excited as we hope to be able to move our preserves to this new area within the next month or so.

I have gooseberry, raspberry, red currant, and black currant preserves ready to add to this space alongside the plum preserves when these arrive, as well as our blackberries and all the many apples after that. 

So, I can't wait to get things organized in my new kitchen space. I won't have the pantry fully built on our property with shelves for some time yet, but will use a temporary setup until I have the ideal place to store the things we harvest from our garden.