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Sumomo plums can vary widely in shape, color, texture and flavor. Most are free-stone varieties, though some hybrids are clingstone. Typically, they are quite large with a somewhat rounded heart-shape rather than the narrow oval plums of Europe. Their firm texture offers an almost crunchy texture, but still rich with syrupy juices. The Sumomo’s flavor profile can range from accents of tart red cherry and tangerine to the candy-like tropical notes of mango, banana and cotton candy.
Sumomo plums are available in the summer.
Sumomo is merely the Japanese translation of the word plum and it encompasses a multitude of cultivars including, Santa Rosa, Burbank, Shiro, Simka, Satsuma, Methley, Red Beaut and Ozark Premier. Botanically classified as Prunus salicina, they are also sometimes referred to as simply Japanese plums or Chinese plums and are known for their early season blooms. Sumomos should not be confused with the Ume plum, another Japanese plum that is small and green known for its highly acidic almost savory qualities.
Sumomo plums are a good source of potassium, calcium, phosphate, vitamin C and B complex vitamins which have a great importance to the process of metabolism and nervous system health. Those with deeply pigmented skins are also a good source of antioxidants and dietary fiber.
Sumomo plums are appropriate for both sweet and savory dishes and may be eaten raw or cooked. They can be featured in desserts such as cakes, ice creams, tarts and pies, or made into silky compotes, jams and reductions. When picked while they are unripe and still green, they may be pickled or even enjoyed with a sprinkling of salt. Sumomos are also a favorite fruit for making wine and brandy. Complimentary flavors include vanilla, nutmeg, tropical fruits, chocolate, butter and citrus. Savory pairings include mild fresh cheeses such as chevre and ricotta, herbs such as arugula, chiles, fennel and basil, pulled and cured pork and poultry.
Plums are one of the most treasured fruits in Japanese society. Festivals all over the country of Japan celebrate the summertime fruits as well as the blossoms that precede them with each coming of spring. Around the month of February towns large and small pay homage to the flowering trees with tea ceremonies, music and art. Later on in summer, the ripened fruits are known for making Japanese plum wine as well as brandy.
Contrary to the name, Sumomos, or Japanese plums, originated in China and were only brought to Japan 200-400 years ago. They quickly became one of the island nation’s favorite crops and were widely cultivated. They were brought to the United States in the 1800’s by the Japanese and soon introduced to the early botanist and stone fruit pioneer Luther Burbank. He saw the value in these large sweet plums and began a breeding program where he hybridized several Japanese varieties. In the USA, Sumomo plums are grown primarily in California, and are the major fresh market plum seen in grocery stores.