The cherry plum, also known as the myrobalan plum (Prunus cerasifera) is a tree species and fruit in the plum family. It is a highly prolific fruit bearer and an ornamental tree found throughout Britain and its surrounding islands, Southeast Europe and Western Asia. Its fruits are an important source of pectin fiber and used to make jams, sweet and tart fruit sauces, tarts and pies. Fermented fruit are used to make a type of spirits called eau de vie. Cherry plums boast a nutritional profile similar to that of plums and are important sources of antioxidants and vitamin C.
What do cherry plum trees look like? The cherry plum tree (Prunus cerasifera), also known as the myrobalan plum tree is related to plums, cherries, apricots and peaches. The tree grows to about 8-9 meters in height, but certain specimens can reach impressive heights of up to 12 meters. It has a smooth, slightly shiny, dark brown bark with reddish-brown hues in younger specimens and either dark green or purple red, ovate leaves. Cherry plum trees are usually the first to produce flowers, as early as mid-February and up until mid-April, after which the leaves appear followed by fruiting. Flowers are white in specimens with green foliage and pink in specimens with purple foliage and look similar to plum or cherry blossom flowers.
What do cherry plums look like? Cherry plums start off as oval, pointy and relatively slender green fruit. As they mature, they become round and plump looking and grow to about 2 cm in diameter. There are two types of cherry plums: varieties that ripen in early summer, usually from June till the beginning on July and varieties that ripen from early July to mid-August or mid-September the latest. Ripe cherry plums have a thin skin and juicy, soft flesh and can be golden yellow, orange-yellow, red, red-purple or dark purple in color. The skin is usually the same color as the flesh and each fruit contains one pit or stone enclosing a bitter seed.
What do cherry plums taste like? Some say cherry plums are less flavorful than plums, but this is not always the case. In my experience, yellow cherry plums do indeed lack intense fruity flavors, but are nevertheless sweet and pleasant-tasting, just more delicately flavored. Red and purple cherry plums are extremely flavorful, honey-sweet to the taste and bearing exquisite and unique fruity notes. The secret to sweet and flavorful cherry plums is watering the tree during periods of drought or poor rainfall so the fruit become plump, juicy, soft and flavorful.
Cherry plums are edible both ripe and unripe. Unripe fruit are sour and astringent, having a puckering taste. They have a crisp flesh and can be eaten raw or cooked. Unripe cherry plums are used to make sour soups and tart fruit sauces. What do cherry plums smell like? The fruit don’t have a particular smell until they become slightly overripe. As the natural sugars in cherry plums ferment from ripeness, the flesh develops a sweet, fruity aroma that envelops the senses. It isn’t until you bite into a perfectly ripe or even slightly overripe fruit that its fruity perfume is released.
What is the difference between plums, mirabelle plums and cherry plums? The three look a lot alike, especially considering they are from the same family. But plums are usually larger, some varieties oval-shaped, pointy or with a soft groove along one side. Mirabelle plums not only look a lot like cherry plums, but they seem to be more closely related as species. They usually only come in one color, golden yellow and ripen in late August, not throughout summer. Moreover mirabelle plums are speckled or turn orange-red on one side, where the sun catches them, while cherry plums tend to have a uniform color. They also have a slightly smaller stone than mirabelle plums.
What are cherry plums good for? The cherry plum is used for making jams, sweet and tart sauces to accompany various dishes, spirits, fruit purees or to sour soups and other foods if it’s unripe. It can be eaten as a snack on its own, right off the tree or added to fruit salads. As for its health effects, the cherry plum has the following nutritional properties and health benefits:
1) Good for constipation and hemorrhoids. Cherry plums contain an estimate of 1.4 g of dietary fiber/100 g of fruit. Most of the fiber is located in the skin of the fruit and is both soluble and insoluble. Cherry plums are a particularly good source a soluble fiber called pectin. In the digestive tract, pectin travels unchanged but absorbs water and becomes gel-like, which helps soften stools, helping relieve constipation. Soft stools that are easy to pass mean less strain during bowel movements and can improve hemorrhoids.
2) Has natural prebiotic properties. The pectin in cherry plums is a soluble fiber, indigestible plant material that remains unchanged by digestive enzymes. Pectin ferments in the colon, releasing beneficial compounds that feed the good bacteria there, meaning it has prebiotic properties. These properties help maintain the health of the colon lining, support populations of good bacteria that help absorb nutrients from food and inhibit the growth of pathogenic gut bacteria, contributing to digestive health (read more about the benefits of pectin).
3) Low in calories for weight loss. Cherry plums have approximately 40 kcal/100 g and less than 1% fat, making them great for weight loss. Moreover, they provide good amounts of dietary fiber which binds to some of the fat from the food we eat, preventing its absorption at the intestinal level and promoting weight loss naturally.
4) Cardiovascular benefits. As a source of fiber, cherry plums indirectly help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, contributing to cardiovascular health. Moreover, they are an extremely rich source of antioxidants which combat lipid peroxidation and further reduce cardiovascular disease risks.
5) Source of vitamin C for immunity. Ripe cherry plums provide anywhere between 10% and 20% of the RDI of vitamin C, while the unripe fruit may contain up to several times the amount. Vitamin C has antioxidant benefits, reduces inflammation in the body and boosts immunity. Eating unripe cherry plums can help strengthen the immune system and combat respiratory infections. However, the unripe fruit is also a source of citric acid and can cause stomach upset and worsen an existing gastritis if eaten in large amounts.
6) Rich in antioxidants. Studies show cherry plums have a high antioxidant content. The yellow varieties are sources of carotenes, while purple and red cherry plums have 4 to 6 different anthocyanin antioxidants (Antioxidant Activities and Major Anthocyanins of Myrobalan Plum (Prunus cerasifera Ehrh.) The peel is especially high in antioxidants. Overall, eating cherry plums can hold benefits for eyesight, memory and learning, exert an anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory and even anti-anxiety action and contribute to a lower risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease or degenerative diseases of the nervous system.
7) Stimulates appetite and has tonic properties. Cherry plums were traditionally eaten to help restore appetite and for their tonic, energizing effects. They contain over 10 g of natural sugars/100 g of fruit to boost energy levels and can have a mild laxative effect when eaten in large amounts, helping detoxify the body. Other nutrients in the fruit include provitamin A.
Conclusion. There is little research on the nutritional value and health benefits of cherry plums. Overall, they are theorized to have a similar nutritional value to plums and recommended as a tonic food with energizing properties and benefits for constipation, stomach upset, hemorrhoids and digestive imbalances. Cherry plums are used for strengthening the immune system, restoring appetite, reducing inflammation and for good eyesight.