2 March 2024

Locally grown fresh plums are only available for a couple of months of the year. And when they’re in season, they’re cheap, so it’s tempting to go overboard when buying.

But before you take advantage of those prices, make sure you know all the basics on storage, shelf life and spoilage of plums. If you need a quick refresher on them, you’re in the right place, as this article covers precisely those topics.

Let’s dive in.

plums in hand
plums in hand

How to tell if a plum is ripe

Before talking about storage, you should know if the plums you have are fully ripe or not. There are two factors to consider when checking your plums for ripeness. These are:

  • Color. Plums develop their color as they ripen. Blue plums go from green to blue-green to dark blue. Purple plums go through a similar path, but end up purple instead of blue (ISU).
  • Firmness. Similar to avocado, green plums are firm to the touch. With time they soften, especially near the tip (ISU). That is also the time when they get their scent.

However, a ripe plum is one that has its characteristic color, smells like plum and is slightly tender.

two kinds of plums
two kinds of plums

How to store plums

Now that you know how to tell if your plums are ripe or not, it’s a breeze to store them.

Green plums should sit at room temperature until ripe. (CACFP). Leave them on the counter (though not in direct sunlight) or in the pantry and let them mature. Once or twice a day, give it a quick check to see if it’s ready or not.

Advice

If you want to speed up the ripening process, place the plums in a paper bag. That will trap the ethylene they produce and make the fruits ripen faster.

open plums
open plums

Once the plums are ripe, you should transfer them to the fridge (CACFP, FK).

Keeping them in a plastic bag in the crisper is a popular fix, but more importantly keep them away from any smelly food products.

Advice

Remember to wash these fruits well before eating (CACFP).

plum closeup
Close up of open plum

How long do plums last?

Green plums usually take 1-2 days to ripen. (FK), but if yours are still super firm after those two days, give them a little more time. If you need to speed up the ripening process, there is a tip for that in the storage section.

Once the plums are ripe, they maintain their quality for about 3 to 5 days. (CACFP, FK) in the fridge. If you’re lucky, they can probably last up to a week in good quality.

If you leave ripe plums at room temperature, they deteriorate much faster and become mushy in a couple of days.

Pantry Fridge
green plums Until ripe (usually 2-3 days)
ripe plums 2-3 days 3-5 days

As usual, please remember that these periods are only estimates.

Old plum beginning to soften
Old plum beginning to soften

How to know if plums are bad?

When checking plums for spoilage, be sure to:

  • Look for any visual signs of deterioration. These include mold (especially near the stem) and wrinkled skin. The latter does not mean that the fruit is spoiled per se, but that it is old and most likely does not taste anywhere like a delicious fresh plum.
  • Check the firmness of the fruit. If the plums are super soft, or even oozing juice, it’s time to go.
  • Look inside for worms or larvae. Always be sure to cut the plum in half and remove the pit before eating. In this way, you ensure that the interior is free of insects. Eating the whole thing and spitting out the pit is never a good idea when it comes to plums.
plum beginning to rot
plum beginning to rot

Sources

plums on a plate
plums on a plate

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