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The Burdekin plum has a rounded, squat shape, similar to that of a classic plum. Its exterior skin boasts a deep purple hue and a smooth and shiny skin. Within the fruit is a thin layer of tender flesh that surrounds a large central pit. Depending upon variety the flesh can be red, greenish-white, or a combination of both colors. The white-fleshed varieties offer a mild, sweet-tart flavor while the red fleshed tend to be more on the tart side. When under-ripe Burdekin plums will be acidic and astringent. Burdekin plums do not ripen on the tree and must be allowed to ripen post-harvest in order for their preferred flavor and texture to develop. To ripen Burdekin can be buried in sand or kept in a paper bag stored in a dark location for a week or so.
Burdekin plums are available in the summer and fall months.
The Burdekin plum is botanically known as Pleiogynium timorense and is a member of the Anacardiaceae family along with mangos, cashews, and pistachios. The Burdekin is an Australian fruit that though never successful commercially has historical value as a native fruit tree. In recent years growers in Australia have started experimenting with selective breeding of the Burdekin plum incorporating molecular genetics in efforts to create a more widely appealing fruit in terms of flavor.
Burdekin plums offer vitamin C, minerals, and dietary fiber with nutritional content varying between varieties. In recent years Burdekin plums have also been tested and documented as offering nearly 5 times the antioxidant content of blueberries.
When ripe, Burdekin plums can be eaten fresh out of hand or sliced and added to fruit salads. They can be cooked down to make sauces or chopped up and used to make gravy for pairing with meats such as venison, kangaroo, and emu. In Australia, the Burdekin plum is used to make traditional jams, jellies, and wine. Burdekin fruit can also be used in lieu of rhubarb in fruit pies such as strawberry and apple. To store, keep Burdekin fruit in a cool and dry location away from direct sunlight.
Burdekin plums were popular among Aboriginal tribes and early settlers and explorers that came to Australia. The Aboriginal people called the fruit Gowan Gowan and Oolooboo and taught the European settlers how to ripen the Burdekin fruit properly by burying it in the sand and allowing it to soften and develop a sweeter flavor. In Australia, the Burdekin plum is also known to be favored by the brushtail possum and the sulphur-crested cockatoo.
The Burdekin plum is native to Australia where it has been grown and consumed for 30 million years. Fossil evidence of the Burdekin plum has been found in central Queensland, which confirms the fruit originated in what is today known as Australia and formerly was part of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana. Today the Burdekin plum is known to grow in the wild and on cultivated trees in the rainforest regions of eastern Queensland. It was a popular fruit among native Australians and settlers until the 1950s when it fell out of favor. In recent years it has experienced a degree of resurgence through efforts of hobbyist growers and those interested in preserving and promoting Australia’s native food plants.