Tag: Cherry Plums

Cherry Plum blossom - 13 March 2018

Cherry Plums

Yes, it’s February as I write this. These wonderful plums, also known as Mirabelles, are ready to pick in around August, but there is good reason for mentioning them now – they are in flower. The pretty blossoms are distinctive, there’s nothing else to confuse them with at this moment and you can spot them as you drive past at 60. If you track them down now, you can head back later in the year for their fantastic fruit. Get your skates on though as the Blackthorn will be out before too long. Yes, it’s still worth knowing where Blackthorns are for your Sloes, but Cherry Plums are less common. The focus of this post is telling them apart. One blog I found gives one possible way:

The simple way to tell the difference is to plunge your arm vigorously into the bush and wriggle it about. If it is covered in bloody scratches when you retrieve it, odds are it was a Blackthorn…
You will be pleased to know that there are other, pain-free ways of telling them apart, admittedly they are a bit more complex.

Cherry Plums

Cherry Plum blossom – 16 February 2019 (note the open leaves are on Honeysuckle. One unopened Cherry Plum leaf visible middle left.

Flowering period: Can flower as early as late January, but can carry on into March and April

Twigs:  The young twigs are hairless and distinctively green. Bark dark grey. No spines.

Flowers / leaves: The leaves develop at the same time as the flowers.

Habitat: Scattered, but locally frequent and easily overlooked when it grows in hedges with Blackthorn but given away by the early flowering. Can make a small tree (up to 8 metres). They are non-native, and sometimes used for landscaping or highways planting.

Appearance: Distinctly wispy with slender branches and twigs.

For more information on identifying Cherry Plums see this Woodland Trust page.

Blackthorn

Blackthorn blossom - 16 April 2018
Blackthorn blossom – 16 April 2018

Flowering period: March – April

Twigs:  The dark brown / black bark is smooth, and twigs form straight side shoots, which develop into thorns / spines.

Flowers / leaves: Flowers appear before the leaves start to show.

Habitat:  Grows naturally in scrub and woodlands, but commonly used in hedges. Can grow to 6 or 7 metres tall.

Appearance: Usually an impenetrable mass of very spiny straight-branched bushes.

For more information on identifying Blackthorn see this Woodland Trust page.

 

Foraging for Cherry Plums

It is well and truly Cherry Plum time. These are small plums, rounder than your regular plum and in a range of colours too.

Cherry Plums - delicious!
Cherry Plums – delicious!

Find the right spot and the trees are nearly groaning under the weight of them!

Cherry Plums by the ton!
Cherry Plums by the ton!

They are sweet enough to eat raw. Most fall to the floor and rot. As I picked these umpteen cyclists went past, not one stopped to pick any or try this bounty for themselves.

They are out of reach with just your arm, but the perfect tool can be made easily and cheaply. From your local hardware shop buy a piece of 30 mm waste pipe. The usual use for this is taking waste water from your sink plug hole to the drain.

1. Holding it firmly, such as in a vice, use a hacksaw to fashion two “claws” on the end.

2. Out of doors (fumes!), heat the claws in a gas flame and bend with pliers to get.

Curved prongs / claws on the pipe.
Curved prongs / claws on the pipe.

It is then just a matter of hooking your Cherry plums (or Crab apples etc.) and they drop down the pipe. You can put your hand over the end or (genius!) tie one of those cloth bags to the end to catch them in.

Success!
Success!

A video bringing it all together – sorry about the road noise.

The plums are great to eat raw, in puddings, jam, fruit leather, chutney and more. A great, very quick pudding is a crumble with the Cherry plums as they are (just washed). Don’t eat in polite company and just spit the stones out as you find them!