Fruit Thinning & Recipes for Unripe Thinned Plums

Posted on Categories Blog, Cooking & Preservation, Home, Orchard Care, Recipes, School Orchards & Curriculum, Tree CareTags , , , ,
Dietitian Cathy Dorazio of Overbrook School for the Blind thins green plums from one of the fully loaded plum trees in the school orchard.

This time of year, most common fruit trees need thinning as they tend to overproduce fruit. Many work days that POP participates in this time of year from April – mid-June often involve thinning fruit trees to keep them healthy. The fruit that is thinned is often inedible as it needs to be thinned before it is fully ripened. However, in the case of thinned plums, and likely other fruitlets, simply cooking them down in a few forms can reduce their bitterness and transform them into a pleasant, tart addition to many recipes.

POP intern Bethany Bronkema and Overbrook’s Cathy pose with their bucket of thinned plums that they’ll incorporate into recipes at home and with the students!

Before looking at possible recipes for these green plums, it is important to know how to best thin your fruit to keep your tree healthy.  New fruit trees, meaning those planted last fall or this spring, need to have all of their fruit taken off of them to give them a chance to grow strong roots and establish themselves in the ground. Some fruit trees, like apples, pears, peaches, plums, and apricots need to be thinned out every year.  

For apples and pears, the fruit should be thinned to around 5 inches apart (roughly the distance between your outstretched pinkie finger and thumb). For peaches, that distance should be closer to 8 inches. With plums and apricots, it is necessary to thin the fruit to a few inches apart, 2-3″, to protect the branches from breaking under the weight of the fruit.

Some trees fruit in clusters.  For clusters, you should remove all but one fruit in clusters spaced the proper distance apart. Fruitlets from healthy trees can be composted on site in a hot compost pile, 120-170 degrees Fahrenheit. Fruitlets coming from trees that have previously had pest or diseases issues such as codling moth, brown rot, various types of scab or other conditions, should be bagged to trash off-site.

After you have thinned out your plum trees, check out the recipes below for some ideas on how to use the fruit!

Green Plum Jam:

One common recipe to make with sour fruit is to add a bit of sugar and cook it down into a jam. The first recipe utilizes the natural sourness of the green plums to make a nice tart jam that can be used on toast, stirred into yogurt, and in many other capacities!

For this simple recipe, only two ingredients are required. As even the unripe plums naturally contain a lot of liquid, simply cooking the plums in some sugar will produce a tasty result. Find the recipe below!

Ingredients:

1 cup green plums, thinly diced

¾ cup granulated sugar

pinch of cinnamon (optional)

Directions:

Step 1: Add the diced green plums and the sugar to a small saucepan and place over medium-high heat.

Step 2: Cook the mixture, stirring occasionally until the plums soften and the whole mixture starts to thicken.

Step 3: Continue reducing the mixture until it reaches the desired consistency.  

Note: The jam will thicken considerably after it is removed from the heat, so remove it when it still seems a little runny.  If you over-reduce the jam (it hardens too much after cooling), simply reheat it with some added water to improve the consistency.  

Jam should be refrigerated after cooling and will keep for several weeks. If you’d like to can your jam for long-term storage, here’s a good primer on the basics of canning:

https://www.seriouseats.com/2012/02/how-to-can-canning-pickling-preserving-ball-jars-materials-siphoning-recipes.html

Mini Blueberry Plum Galettes:

One fun idea is to use these plums as a lift to other baked summer fruit desserts.  Many fruit desserts often call for a squeeze of lemon juice to lift the flavor, and these green plums are a perfect substitute for that zesty boost.

These mini blueberry plum galettes combine the sour flavor of the green plums with the sweetness of blueberries, all encased in a pastry shell.  A yummy summer treat, the recipe is found below!

Ingredients: for 4 mini galettes

For the filling:

1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

1 cup green plums, diced

½ cup granulated sugar

½ tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 Tbs cornstarch

For the pastry shells:

Note: Feel free to substitute your favorite pie or pastry dough recipe

1 ½ cup all-purpose flour

2 Tbs granulated sugar

½ tsp salt

½ cup (1 stick) butter, cold and cubed

¼ cup water, iced

1 beaten egg (optional), for egg wash

Directions:

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 375°F

Step 2: In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, and salt for the pastry shells.

Step 3: Add the butter in small cubes to the flour mixture and, using two knives or your fingers, break the butter up into the dough.

Step 4: Slowly add in the water and form the dough into a rough ball. Cover and refrigerate while preparing the filling.

Note: The dough can also be prepared by adding the flour, sugar, salt and butter to a food processor and mixing, and then adding the water.  

Step 5: Prepare the filling by mixing all ingredients together in a small bowl and then letting it sit for 5-10 minutes.  

Step 6: Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each out individually into a small circle about ¼ inch thick.  

Step 7: Divide the filling and pile an equal amount into the center of each dough circle.

Step 8: Moving around the edge of the circle, fold the edges over the fruit filling until each galette is fully sealed.  Egg wash the pastry shells if desired.

Note: To help with the folding process, make the galettes on small pieces of parchment paper and use the paper to fold the dough into the correct shape.

Step 9: Place galettes onto a greased baking tray and bake at 375°F for 25-30 mins or until golden brown.  

Green Plum Morning Muffins:

Great for breakfast or a quick snack, these muffins take the best qualities of the green plums and combine them with healthy oats and whole wheat flour for a hearty result that is a great start to any day!  

Ingredients: for 12 muffins

2 cup green plums, chopped

1 egg

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup rolled oats

1 tsp baking soda


1 tsp cinnamon


2 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil

1 cup milk

Directions:

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350°F

Step 2: Combine the chopped green plums, egg, brown sugar, and salt in a medium sized bowl.  Let sit during the next step.  Note: Sugar and salt are desiccants.  They will draw moisture out of the green plums while they are sitting in this mixture and begin the softening process of the hard fruit.

Step 3: In a large bowl, whisk together the oats, baking soda, cinnamon, and whole wheat flour.  

Step 4: Add the oil and milk to the plum mixture and stir to combine.

Step 5: Pour the plum mixture into the dry ingredients and stir to combine.  

Step 6: Divide the muffin mixture into a 12-piece muffin tin (I like to use an ice cream scoop to do this evenly) and bake at 350°F for 30-35 mins.

While it is good orchard care practice to thin fruit trees as it helps the trees produce sweet, healthy fruit, it sometimes seems unfortunate to have to then get rid of these large quantities of thinned fruit.  In putting these recipes together, I considered how other fruits or vegetables that are naturally hard, sour, and bitter (such as rhubarb) are used in baking to produce delicious products. Feel free to try out these ideas, as well as experiment on your own with how thinned fruit can add a new twist to your favorite recipes!

This POP Blog Post was written by 2019 POP Intern Bethany Bronkema.  

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