Years ago I learned that plums grow wild parts of the United States just like apples, but I’d never run across any until this year. The trees were small and scrubby, but they were absolutely covered in plums.
Just like apples, each tree has a slightly different taste in the wild, and some were barely palatable. I came across about a dozen trees, all completely covered. One tree, in particular, had sweet, tender and especially delicious red plums.
Our own cultivated plums come ripe in July and August, but many of these were still a bit under-ripe in the last week of September. They’re late all around, still holding onto their leaves after cultivated plums dropped there’s weeks ago around these parts.
Each plum is the size of a large cherry, with tough skin and soft sweet flesh. I’d say they’re about 1/4 the size of the cultivated plums that we grow in our orchard, and maybe 1/8th the size of the mass market plums that you’d find in the grocery store.
Perhaps their small size is why I hadn’t seen them before? Or maybe they only produce heavily in some years and not in others? None the less, now that I’ve found a patch it’s marked in my mind for next year and hopefully now that I know exactly what I’m looking for I’ll begin to see them in other locations.
I started searching for a good recipe to use them and found that wild plums actually have a lot of traditional medicinal uses. According to Edible Wild Plants of the Prairie they were dried or made into sauces by the Native Americans, and were a common food source mentioned in pioneer journals.
Medicinally, the outside bark was scraped from the roots and boiled to treat cuts and scrapes. This same preparation was drunk as a diarrhea remedy and used as a mouthwash for mouth sores.
It’s always exciting to me when modern science confirms the traditional uses of plants. While it makes sense that wild plums would have medicinal uses just like wild cherry bark, science back in the 1970s confirmed it. According to Medical Botany, wild plum root and bark contain a compound called phloretin which is naturally antibacterial.
I didn’t collect any bark or roots, but I do now have this tasty fruit. They were small enough that I was able to easily pit them with my favorite cherry pitter. The only real thing to keep in mind is that you need to place the plums on the pitter stem side up.
Cherry pits are nearly round, while plum pits are more almond-shaped. This different shape means they need to be pushed out vertically so they don’t rip too much flesh out or lodge in the pitter as they’re removed.
Most of the plums we harvested were eaten straight out of hand, but what remains I’m planning on cooking down into a quick wild plum and honey jam. Recipe to follow soon!
We collect wild plums, both read and yellow, pears and apples each fall during hunting season in Idaho. About 3 years ago, we discovered the best tasting plum we’d ever had. At times we also find late blackberries too. Firepit mixed fruit cobbler is a family favorite.
Reminds me of finding a wild damson tree near home, superb, I never told anybody else where it was until I moved away!
these plums have always been abundant around my home, in okla. they are not the best, since they are usually very tart. however they make the most wonderful jelly if you dont mind all the worm holes. we also have the wild sand plum, which is about the same size but much sweeter. trees of sand plum are smaller and lighter. good out of hand.
Nice! Many of the ones I’ve found have been as good as cultivated plums, just smaller. Some are tart and astringent though. It’s a bit of a gamble. We didn’t have any worms in ours, and maybe that’s because our winters are so cold here. We tend to have fewer pests in general.
We used to collect bullace (local name in out part of the UK), but the council in their wisdom decided to take out the plants to make way for a new housing development, am now looking for new supplies!!
found a patch of wild plums, dug one up and it is thriving at edge of my woods. look forward to wild plum jam
When I was a kid, my mom always took us foraging for beach plums where we lived in South Jersey. She made Beach Plum Jelly with them.
We live in vermont as well. We walk our property every day and always noticed this tree in the middle of the field but nothing ever came of it except nice green leaves. Then three years ago we found plums all over the ground. We were so excited but baffled why it never produced before….
We have been on this property 22 years. Now we keep close tabs and I look forward to their bounty..
And new recipes I will try with them….
So glad I found you on line…..
Peace health and happiness
Isn’t wonderful when you discover edibles right in your own backyard? Thank you and enjoy your plums!
We are in Nebraska . Great enjoyment is picking the wild plums in our area. They grow mainly on less traveled roads. The plum colors are purple, red, and yellow. We make jelly and jam with our collection. Some are more tart than others. A good outing, we enjoy, is rummaging thru the countryside and finding this delicious wild fruit. They are eaten on breads.
That is great that you have access to so much wild food. Foraging is one of my favorite things to do.
I’d like to see the plum and honey jb am recipe you mentioned. Also, how do you deal with the worms??
I’ve honestly never had an issue with worms in the ones I’ve found, but that can always be a problem in any fruit. The jam was posted as a guest post on a friend’s blog here: https://www.earthfoodandfire.com/wild-plum-jam/
Mom transferred a sucker of a similar variety from the family farm to the back yard when she and dad moved into the small town I lived in till adulthood. Until it got overwhelmed by the maple and lilac planted too close to it the tree produced a very sweet fleshed plum that would ferment on the tree before it fell. Any fruit we didn’t get by October would get the local crows and blackbirds drunk and flopping about the back yard for hours.