Plum fruit is sweet and juicy and it can be eaten fresh or used in jam-making or other recipes. Plum juice can be fermented into plum wine; when distilled, this produces a brandy known in Eastern Europe as Slivovitz, Rakia, Tzuica or Palinka. Dried plums are known as prunes. Prunes are also sweet and juicy and contain several antioxidants.
Prune marketers in the United States have, in recent years, begun marketing their product as "dried plums", because "prune" has negative connotations connected with elderly people suffering from constipation.
Various flavours of dried plum are available at Chinese grocers and specialty stores worldwide. They tend to be much drier than the standard prune. Cream, Ginsing, Spicy, and Salty are among the common variety flavours. Licorice is generally used to intensify the flavour of these plums and is used to make salty plum drinks and toppings for Shaved Ice or baobing.
Pickled plums are another type of preserve available in Asia and international specialty stores. The Japanese variety, called umeboshi, is often used for rice balls, called "Onigiri" or "Omusubi". The ume, from which umeboshi are made, is however more closely related to the apricot than to the plum.
Prune kernel oil is made from the fleshy inner part of the pit of the plum.
Plums come in a wide variety of colours and sizes. Some are much firmer-fleshed than others and some have yellow, white, green or red flesh, with equally varying skin colour.
Plums and prunes are known for their laxative effect. This effect has been attributed to various compounds present in the fruits, such as dietary fiber, sorbitol, and isatin. Prunes and prune juice are often used to help regulate the functioning of the digestive system.
Plum cultivars in use today include:
When it flowers in the early spring, a plum tree will be covered in blossom, and in a good year approximately 50% of the flowers will be pollinated and become plums. Flowering starts after 80 growing degree days.
If the weather is too dry the plums will not develop past a certain stage, but will fall from the tree while still tiny green buds, and if it is unseasonably wet or if the plums are not harvested as soon as they are ripe, the fruit may develop a fungal condition called brown rot. Brown rot is not toxic, and very small affected areas can be cut out of the fruit, but unless the rot is caught immediately the fruit will no longer be edible. Plum is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera including November Moth, Willow Beauty and Short-cloaked Moth.
The Serbian plum (Serbian: шљива / šljiva) is the third most produced in the world and the alcoholic drink slivovitz (Plum brandy) (Serbian: шљивовица / šljivovica) is the national drink of Serbia. The plum production averages 424,300 tonnes per year; FAO 1991–2001.
A large number of plums are also grown in Hungary where they are called szilva and are used to make lekvar (a plum paste jam), palinka (a slivovitz-type liquor), plum dumplings, and other foods. The region which produces the best and most plums is Szabolcs-Szatmár in the northeastern part of the country near the borders with Ukraine and Romania.
The mei blossom (Prunus mume), along with the peony, are considered traditional floral emblems of China. On June 21 1964, the Executive Yuan of the Republic of China officially designated the mei blossom to be its national flower, with the triple grouping of stamens (one long and two short) representing the Three Principles of the People and the five petals symbolizing the five branches of the ROC government. The designation repeats a previous statement by the ROC government in 1929.
The mei blossom is also the floral symbol of the ancient Chinese city Nanjing, which served as the former capital (and remained designated as the official capital) of the Republic of China.