East Vs West: The Difference Between European And Japanese Plums

Every variety of plum derives from either the “Japanese” or “European” families. Even though they’re the same fruit, both are quite distinct, offering different flavors, shelf-lives, and textures. Expand your plum knowledge with this quick guide on the two types of plums!

Japanese Plums

More common than its western cousin, Japanese plums can be found year round but peaks during the summer months. This variety is recognizable by its dark red to blackish skin and hearty texture. They’re also clingstone fruits (meaning the flesh “clings” to the pit), while European plums have freestone pits. Flavor wise, Japanese plums are known for their mild sweetness and slight astringency.

  • Varieties: El Dorado, Santa Rosa, Friar
  • Shelf Life: 3-4 weeks after harvest
  • Best Served: Fresh and in tarts

European Plums

Sometimes marketed as “sugar plums” or “fresh prunes,” European plums are champions of baking and drying. They’re typically sweeter and more versatile than their Japanese counterparts, but are much more delicate, as they only store for a week or two. When searching for this variety, look for light colors. Yellow is the most common, but you may see purple or pink skin. For a supremely sweet baking plum, search for the Mirabelle variety, as its widely considered to be the sweetest of all plums.

Fun Fact: While the vast majority of European plums are freestone, a few select types (like Greengage) have clingstone pits!

  • Varieties: Mirabelle, Greengage, Damson, Moyer
  • Shelf Life: 1-2 weeks after harvest
  • Best Served: Cooked and in plum pudding