Ripening Guide

Learn more about the many fruits of Toronto's Urban Orchard

Plums

Plums of many varieties, colours and flavours can be found in Toronto’s urban orchard. Plum trees are not very abundant so these local edibles are quite a rare treat. Plum tree produce round or oval-shaped fruit, around the size of a golf ball with a central pit. Depending on the variety, plums can be purple, blue, green, yellow and/or red when fully ripe.

  • July
  • August
  • September

How to tell when plums are ripe: When the skin has changed colour, the flesh is soft, and the fruit pulls easily from the branch with just a light tug. Many varieties will have a ‘bloom’ of white powdery substance on ripe plums. This powdery stuff is a harmless fungus that needs a specific sugar content to survive and is only present in ripe fruit. Plums will ripen off the tree so they can be harvested when a little underripe.

When to submit a pick request: We’ll need some advance notice to schedule your pick, so please submit a fruit pick request 3-5 days before your fruit is ready. A good time to do this is when most plums on the tree have just lost their greenish hue (unless you have a green variety) and yield to pressure when gently squeezed.

Picking tips: Pick by hand with a slight twist or with picking poles and leave stem attached. Ripe plums may drop easily from the branches so it’s a good idea to use a drop sheet or tarp to catch excess fruit.

Storage tips: Plums will continue to ripen off the tree. Place ripe fruit in the fridge right away, and let unripe fruit ripen on the counter or in a paper bag. Be careful to check on ripening plums — they can go quickly from unripe to overripe.

Pruning Tips

If your plum isn’t too tall and is fairly healthy, you can leave the tree at its existing height and prune it to clear branches that don’t bear fruit. Your first step is to follow the 3D rule, and remove any dead, damaged or diseased branches. You can also thin branches that head into the centre of the tree or are crossing and clustering one another. This will encourage an open vase shape and allow more sunlight to reach the centre of the tree. Ideally the main stem should have 3 (maximum 4) main branches that grow out from it, and the branches should spread outwards, not inwards. If you have more than this, you can reduce the number. Remember not to prune more than ⅓ of the tree every year. It may take 1-3 years of pruning to bring back the desired shape. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that plums fruit on young wood. Avoid removing branches that are less than three years old unless you have to.

If you have an established, overgrown plum tree the best time to prune is when it’s growing strongly from early June to Mid July. Do not prune it in the winter or spring because the risk for fungal infection is high.