When deciding what plum trees to plant there are two decisions to make. Firstly, you must choose the root stock. This is the rooting system and the stub of the tree which will determine the height and vigour of the tree. Secondly , you must choose the scion. This forms the upper trunk and the branches and determines the variety of plum to be produced. These two elements are then grafted together to form the tree. If you look carefully at the trees it is sometimes still possible to see where the trees are grafted, usually about 15cm above the ground where the tree bulges.
At Copas Farms we select dwarf root stock, to produce smaller trees to make picking accessible from the ground, together with a wide variety of scions to extend the picking season. The trees are planted in the Autumn while the trees are in a dormant state. It will take three years before any meaningful crop is produced.
As the trees grow they will be pruned regularly to reduce the height and to create a good shaped tree. Pruning generally takes place while the trees are blossoming as at this time of year the tree sap is rising and this helps to prevent disease getting into the trees through the cuts. Very heavy crops can lead to the branches being broken by the weight of the plums and therefore pruning is also used to reduce damaged branches.
Plums crops are susceptible to frosts when blossoming as this will kill the fruit bud and has the potential to wipe out the crop. This is one of the reasons a number of varieties are grown to spread the time of blossoming and thereby reduce the risk. Plum orchards can also get into a cycle of producing a heavy crop one year followed by a light crop the following year and this is very hard to break.
VARIETIES GROWN AT COPAS FARMS PICK YOUR OWN:
- Early Varieties: Opal and Czar.
- Mid Season Varieties: The popular Victoria and Jubilee.
- Late Season Varieties: Marjorie’s Seedling.
PICKING AND STORING
- Do not climb trees or break branches.
- Choose plump plums with smooth skins and pluck from the trees with a stalk. This will keep the plums fresher for longer
- Once picked keep plums cool.
- It is best not to wash plums until they are ready to eat.
- Suitable for freezing if using for cooking but it is advisable to remove the stones first.
Nutritionally, plums are rich in antioxidants and are a good Source of potassium, fibre and vitamins A and C.
- Plums belong to the Prunus genus of plants and are relatives of the peach, nectarine and almond, which are considered ‘drupes’, fruits that have a hard stone pit surrounding their seed. When dried, plums are know as prunes.
- Plums grown in Britain originated from the fruits of Damascus, Syria and Persia, having been brought into this country by the Gage family (hence their link with the gage group of fruits). The popular Victoria Plum was found as a seedling in a garden in Sussex and the Czar plum was named after a visiting Emperor when the fruit was introduced to the market over one hundred years ago.
- Plums have stones like human fingerprints, each one being unique to a particular variety. Indeed experts were able to identify over one hundred individual plums stones found on the flagship of Henry VIII’s “Mary Rose” which sank in 1545 and was raised in the 1980s.
- Little Jack Horner sat in the corner eating his Christmas Pie. He put in this thumb and pulled out a plum and said “What a good boy am I!”. The connection between plums and goodness can be traced to the nursery rhyme of “Little Jack Horner”. This rhyme is believed to have some basis in history (“Eatioms” by John D. Jacobson, Laurel 1993). Legend has it that there was a real Jack Horner, whose name was actually Thomas. In the 16th Century the Bishop of Glastonbury Cathedral gave Horner twelve Deeds to valuable properties to present to King Henry VIII. The Deeds, a gift from the Bishop to the King, were placed in a large Christmas pie for safekeeping. On his way to London the greedy and curious Horner opened the crust and removed one of the Deeds, the ‘plum’ for himself.
COOKING AND EATING
The distinct flavour of plums provides us with a variety of uses, with plum crumbles and pies still remaining old favourites. Plums also freeze well and make delicious jams, chutneys and wine. That said, it is best to remove stones before freezing as they can develop an almond-like taste if kept for too long. Plums are also perfect for sauces which can accompany both savoury and sweet dishes.
Plums can either be peeled or left whole for cooking. The peel is generally sharper and tangier than the flesh so will deepen the flavour of the dish if kept on during cooking. For a more mellow taste to the finished dish the skin can be removed. An easy way to do this is to first plunge the fruit in boiling water for a few moments and then you will find that the peel will slip off more easily.