How to Tell if Plum Red Inside

As summer rolls in, plums make their triumphant return to farmers markets and grocery store displays. Their dusty purple and blue hues herald the approach of the stone fruit season. I don’t know about you, but biting into a ripe, juicy plum easily ranks among the simple pleasures of summer for me. However, not all plums are created equal on the inside. Some varieties surprise you with a pop of color when you slice them open. So how do you know if the plums you’re buying will have that gorgeous red interior? Let’s break plum red inside down.

Checking Plum Varieties

The easiest way to find plums with red flesh is to select specific varieties known for it. Over years of cultivation, growers have bred plums that not only taste great but also have striking interior pigment.

Checking Plum Varieties

Here are some of the most common red-fleshed plum varieties to look out for:

Black Splendor

One of the darkest red-fleshed varieties, Black Splendor plums have skin that appears almost black-blue. When you cut into them, you’ll find crimson flesh so dark it’s almost purple. The color contrast makes for gorgeous fruit salads or baked plum dishes.

Despite Black Splendor’s ominous name, their flavor is wonderfully sweet with just a hint of tartness. It’s a nice balance that makes for excellent fresh eating, jams, juice and more.

Red Beaut

With brick-red skin and dramatic scarlet flesh, Red Beaut is aptly named. Its flesh is firm and juicy with a bold, sweet-tart taste. Red Beauts are a mid-to-late season variety, ripening towards the end of summer.

Use Red Beauts anytime you want vibrant color in desserts, salads, sauces and more. They also hold up well to canning and preserving.

Ruby Red

Smaller and rounder than other red plums, Ruby Red has thin, deep purple skin covering its bright candy-apple interior. Its fragrant flesh is sweet and mild, making it an easy snacking plum for kids and adults alike.

Ruby Reds hit peak season in early August. They don’t last long in storage though, so enjoy them right away. Their compact shape makes them perfect for lunchboxes too.

Spotting Surface Indicators

Even if you’re not sure about the exact variety, certain signs on a plum’s surface often indicate what’s inside. Over time, you’ll learn to spot them at a glance.

Spotting Surface Indicators

Darker Skin Pigment

In many cases, plums with red or purple-tinged skin contain noticeably darker flesh beneath the surface. Anthocyanins—the antioxidant pigments producing that scarlet inside color—often create darker exteriors too.

So when evaluating plums at the store, prioritize ones leaning more towards black-red than plain reddish-purple. It’s not a perfect indicator, but you stand a greater chance of getting red interiors with those deeper hues.

Dusky Overtones

Beyond just dark color, look for plums with gray, blue or brown undertones to their skin. Mottling and dusky blushes signal high anthocyanin levels that translate to red pigmentation within.

For example, plums like Black Splendor and Burgundy have dark purple skin with blue overcast. Meanwhile, Howard Sun plums appear almost black-dotted. All contain varying depths of red flesh.

So pay attention to those subtle secondary tones along with the main skin color. They offer clues about interior reddening in certain varieties.

Evaluating the Taste

Since anthocyanins influence both color and flavor, tasting a plum’s flesh can actually indicate if it’s red inside too.

Plums with only yellow or green flesh generally taste very sweet and mild. But introduce red pigmentation, and they develop more complexity. You’ll notice pleasant tartness and bitterness kicking in along with the sweetness due to those anthocyanins.

So when sampling plums at the farmer’s market, pick up on flavor nuances beyond sugar content. If it seems extra vibrant, rich and “bright” on your palate, chances are good it’s red!

Identifying Immature vs. Mature Fruit

Young, under-ripe plums lack well-developed anthocyanin content in their flesh. Over time, sunlight and ripening reactions enhance red pigment formation.

So while an immature plum might have darker exterior color, cutting it open often reveals pale green or yellow flesh. If you don’t see much red before full maturity, it’s probably not a red-fleshed variety.

Mature fruit with maximum internal color development differs by variety, but generally occurs:

  • Black Splendor: early August
  • Red Beaut: mid August
  • Ruby Red: early August
  • Burgundy: September
  • Howard Sun: late July

For non-red varieties like Santa Rosa, flesh stays golden yellow despite full ripening by mid-summer. Use the timeframes above to make sure you’re getting plums at their colorful peak.

Choosing Ideal Red-Fleshed Plums

Now that you know indicators to spot on plums to predict red interiors, let’s discuss how to pick winning fruit at the market. Follow these tips for the tastiest, most vibrant red-inside plums for eating fresh or using in recipes.

Choosing Ideal Red-Fleshed Plums

Judge Plum Firmness

When selecting plums of any color, firmer is usually better. Gently squeeze or cup plums in your palm to test resilience. They should give slightly but still feel plump and springy, not mushy.

Overly soft fruit suggests over-ripeness and bruising in transit. Avoid those for best quality since they won’t hold up or store as well once cut. Seek out plums that feel heavy for their size too.

Check for Unblemished Skin

Red plums almost always have thin, delicate skin that requires gentle handling. Check fruit carefully for bruising or punctures before buying.

Slight cracking near the stem is normal as some varieties (like Ruby Red) cling tightly until just before full maturity. But major breaks or leaking juice indicate advanced decay processes you want to avoid.

Confirm Bright, Vibrant Color

Obviously you want to see rich red or dusky purple skin true to the variety. But also look for plums with a noticeable powder blue “bloom” across areas like cheeks or shoulders. This waxy coating acts as the fruit’s natural sunscreen. Seeing plenty of bloom suggests high integrity and freshness.

Likewise, avoid any drained or dull color tones. Yellowish undertones rather than blush can mean over-ripeness or aging on the shelf and tree. Go for maximum color depth and dimension for peak eating quality.

Smell Plums’ Aroma

Don’t be shy about holding plums right up to your nose for a good whiff! Ripe plums release an abundance of sweet, floral aroma at maturity. If their fragrance seems muted or off, it’s not a good sign.

Trust this key sense when evaluating any fruit. Our noses detect subtle flavors and volatiles better than our tastebuds can initially, guiding instinctive attraction to the best pick.

Storing Fresh Red Plums Correctly

You found an incredible selection of plums with crimson insides. Awesome! Now…how do you keep them in top form once home from the market?

The good news is that most plums keep well at room temperature for a couple days. Here are some plum red inside storage tips:

Leave Them Unwashed at First

Don’t rinse plums as soon as you get them. That lingering pale bloom helps seal in moisture. Wipe dirt away gently with a soft cloth instead if needed.

Keep Them Separate

Because plums soften quickly, its best not to store them touching each other in a crowded bowl. Arrange with space for airflow in a single layer instead, covered lightly.

Refrigerate for Long-Term Storage

For storage beyond 2-3 days, keep plums chilled. The cold slows ripening metabolism while humidity prevents moisture loss.

Leave unwashed initially and wrap loosely in a paper towel inside a vented container. Don’t seal fully or condensation collects, risking spoilage.

Stored properly, most plums last up to a week in the refrigerator. Flavor may decline after 5 days or so but they’ll still be useful for cooking.

Freeze for Out-of-Season Enjoyment

Freezing lets you save summer’s bounty for “dessert emergencies” during winter! Prep your plums first by:

  • Gently rinsing
  • Pitting and slicing if desired
  • Laying slices in a single layer on a sheet pan

Slide the uncovered pan into the freezer until completely solid. Then promptly transfer slices into freezer bags, excluding excess air. Properly frozen, plums last up to a year.

Later, use frozen slices straight from the bag for smoothies, baking, syrups and more. Their bright color and summery flavor adds cheer on cold winter days!

Tasty Ways to Use Up Red Plums

5 Tasty Ways to Use Up Red Plums

From sweet breakfast baked goods to gorgeous summer salads, so many recipes can benefit from ruby-hued plums. Here are 5 favorite ways to use plum red inside:

Whip Up Plum Lemonade

Puree pitted plums with fresh lemon juice and simple syrup in a blender. Strain if desired. Pour over ice, sparkling water and mint for a sunshine-hued drink. So much more exciting than regular pink lemonade!

Toss a Plum Panzanella Salad

Dice bread, arugula, red onions, cucumbers, and mozzarella over a platter. Top with chopped fresh plums, torn basil and toasted pine nuts right before serving. Dress with a red wine vinaigrette. Let sit just briefly so the bread absorbs some juice.

Bake Plum Cornmeal Scones

Mix flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt and chilled butter bits to form crumbs. Gently fold in chopped plums and buttermilk just until combined. Scoop dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 400°F for 18-22 minutes. Enjoy warm with whipped cream or butter.

Grill Plum-Glazed Pork Chops

Puree plums in a blender. Transfer to a small saucepan and add balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce and crushed red pepper. Simmer until thickened. Cool. Grill pork chops to desired doneness, brushing with glaze several times. Serve atop lemony couscous.

Swirl Plum Sauce Into Greek Yogurt

Puree ripe plums in a food processor or blender until smooth. Mix in a squirt of honey and fresh lime juice to taste. Dollop Greek yogurt into bowls and artistically drizzle the vivid plum sauce over top. Sprinkle with crushed pistachios and mint.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are red plums healthier than regular plums?

Their vibrant color comes from anthocyanins—antioxidant pigments with many potential health benefits. So in that regard, yes red plums contain higher levels of certain good-for-you compounds than light yellow varieties. But all plums contain beneficial nutrients and should be part of a healthy diet.

Do red plums taste different than yellow plums?

Usually red varieties taste more tart and complex compared to strictly sweet yellow-fleshed plums. The influential pigments affect flavor beyond just color. However you’ll still find a range of sweeter to more sour red plums too depending on the specific type.

Why do my red plums turn brown after being cut?

Enzymatic activity accelerates once the fruit’s flesh gets exposed to air. This causes oxidation and browning, similar to what you see when an apple turns brown. Plums also contain iron which can enhance the effect. It’s harmless but for best color retention, treat cut surfaces with lemon or fruit preserver solution.

Can you make jam or jelly with red plums?

Their gorgeous color and balanced sweet-tart taste makes red plums wonderful for all types of preserves! Use them alone or combine with yellow varieties. Because they contain pectin naturally, some recipes may even thicken well without needing extra added.

How do I stop my red plums from getting mushy so fast?

Ripening happens quickly once plums are picked, leading to rapid softening. To slow the decline, promptly store unwashed plums loose in the crisper drawer of your fridge. Eat within 3-5 days for best texture and vibrancy. Freezing also stops ripening in its tracks for longer storage potential.

Parting Thoughts

While not seen as often as their golden cousins, vibrant red-fleshed plums bring double the color and flavor to warm weather menus. Their flashy skin and interior pigments pack an antioxidant boost too. I hope these tips help you spot awesome plum red inside varieties like Red Beaut and Ruby Red more easily.

As you tackle autumn jobs in the garden, such as preparing the soil and pruning, take a delightful detour into the realm of whimsy by embracing a unique pastime—playing plum fortune-teller at market stalls! Once you get the hang of identifying indicators, try predicting red insides before cutting them open, impressing your kids and possibly sparking a fellow shopper’s interest in sampling something new.

Because as superb as classic yellow plums can be, why settle for one hue when you can have rainbow fruit salads and salsas instead? A mix of varieties keeps seasonal eating exciting. Here’s to a summer overflowing with sweet, tart and vibrantly red plums!

Bruce Curtis

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