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Mr. Smarty Plants - Eating green wild plums

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Friday - July 23, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Seed and Plant Sources
Title: Eating green wild plums
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

As a child in south Austin I always relished eating green plums beginning in mid-May. My aunt had wild plum trees - more like bushes really - that fruited starting in late April. (Sadly, they died when I was in college.) We would eat the plum unripened - the skin smooth, green and crisp, the fruit just starting to turn yellow and juicy, the whole thing mouth puckeringly sour and acidic! By the 2nd week in June the plums were ripe, moderately sweet, with reddish skin and mushy flesh. I didn't like them so much then! Until 2 years ago I was able to buy these same plums by the bushel from the farmer's market on N. Lamar, but sadly the farmers no longer go there. That makes TWO years I've gone without my summer treat. I've asked my aunt what kind of plums they were, and she doesn't know. It was just a wild tree growing through her fence when she moved into the house 40 off years ago. My question is, what kind of plum tree was this? Is this something that's readily available at local nurseries? Would it grow in my yard (southwest Austin, Oak Hill area), and is it something that require cross pollination? Basically - can I grow my own sour plums since I can't find them anymore? Thank you so much for your help!

ANSWER:

It makes my mouth pucker just to think of eating green wild plums!  

Judging by your description of their being bushes rather than trees, we think the plums that grew in your aunt's yard were probably Prunus rivularis (creek plum).  They could also have been Prunus mexicana (Mexican plum), the other common wild plum that grows in the Austin area. Both plums have perfect flowers (with both stamens, the male component, and pistils, the female part) and are pollinated by bees and other insects and should grow just fine in your yard in Oak Hill. You can search our National Suppliers Directory for local nurseries that carry the trees.  Nurseries around town commonly carry the Mexican plum, but the creek plum may be a little harder to find.


Prunus rivularis

Prunus rivularis

Prunus mexicana

Prunus mexicana

 

 

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