The Health Benefits of Western Plums

Western plums

Plums are high in Vitamin A, B1, and C as well as dietary fiber. They also provide a rich source of minerals like calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. Plums can be eaten fresh, canned, dried, or made into jams, chutneys and other preserves. They can also be stoned and roasted for a healthy snack.

The fruit of plums is usually sweet and juicy, but some varieties are more tart than others. They are low in fat and sodium and contain beneficial phytochemicals that promote heart health and lower blood cholesterol levels. Plums are also known to have anti-aging effects and can help with gout, osteoarthritis and diabetes.

Several species of Western plums have been cultivated for their fruits, ornamentals and medicinal properties throughout history. They are a hardy perennial shrub that produces large, sweet fruits that can be used for fresh eating, cooking and making preserves. They are a good addition to any edible garden and can be grown in the home landscape, or as a border tree.

A variety of cultivars are available for growing at home. ‘Sanford’ and ‘Claret’ are a couple of popular European types that do well in most climates. ‘Stanley’ is another excellent choice for the northern US, and it is self-fertile, so cross-pollination with other plums is not required.

Some American hybrid plums, such as ‘Alderman’, ‘Superior’ and ‘Underwood’, have been bred to resist aphids and other diseases that plague wild species of the fruit. These trees are suitable for most climates and produce sweet, juicy plums that hold up well to canning.

In 1840, George Catlin wrote that when he traveled through the Choctaw lands in southern Oklahoma he was frequently stopped by “hundreds of acres of small plum bushes…loaded with so much fruit that their branches were nearly bent to the ground.” This abundance of cultivated wild plums is evidence of intentional cultivation by Native Americans (Laws).

Plums are a favorite food for many animals, including deer, raccoons, foxes, squirrels and birds. They are also an important food for honeybees. Their leaves are a favorite of rabbits and other small mammals, and their thickets are valuable habitats for a number of bird species. Plums also make attractive and colorful hedges.

The plants can grow in a wide range of conditions, from full sun to partially shaded areas. They prefer a soil that is well-drained and nutrient-rich, with a neutral pH of about 6.5. When planting, it is recommended to incorporate an inch or two of composted organic matter, aged manure or leaf mold into the hole at the time of planting. This helps improve the soil, allowing it to retain moisture longer, which is critical for optimum plant growth and fruit production.

The proper placement of the plum tree is important, as the site must receive at least 6-8 hours of sunlight a day. This is necessary to initiate the flower buds in early summer, as well as to ensure adequate carbohydrate production for fruit ripening and flavor development.