Japanese plums are one of four varieties of plums, and are a relatively hardy breed. Plums are a healthy fruit that among other benefits, naturally stimulates bowel movement. California is famous for its export of Japanese plums. The Japanese actually imported their plums from China about 200 to 300 years ago. The Chinese had been cultivating the fruit for thousands of years.
Off The Tree
The Japanese plum is ripe for eating about 90 days after the tree's flowers bloom. Harvest time varies by climate and region, but could be anywhere from February to June. The fruit will have lost its green tinge and be firm to the touch, but not rock-hard.
Japanese plums are the most common plums sold in the United States. They can be different colors, depending on the type of Japanese plum. Twelve varieties of Japanese plums make up three-fourths of California's plum production, though plums are grown elsewhere is the country as well. Look for a plum that shows good color for its variety. Some stores show pictures of the ripe fruit next to its bin. If the fruit is supposed to be purple, pick a true purple plum, not one that is reddish or black.
A plum should be slightly firm to the touch, but not hard. A fruit whose flesh gives slightly is still good as well. If a fruit is too soft, it is considered overripe. Other signs of overripe plums are shriveling skin, or discolored skin with bruises or breaks.
A Japanese plum is best picked from a tree in a mature state, but not fully ripe. The fruit will give off a sweet aroma when it is fully ripe and ready to eat.
If the Japanese plums from the grocery store or from the tree are not quite ripe, store them at room temperature, between 51 degrees and 77 degrees until they are fully ripe. To speed up ripening at home, place the fruit in a paper bag with another piece of fruit that produces ethylene, like a banana, apple or pear. When the plum is ripe, store it in the refrigerator until you eat it. Keep plums away from other fruits that will accelerate the ripening process.
Ripened Japanese plums can be eaten fresh, used in cooking and baking, canned, made into jams and jellies and dried to become prunes.