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June 19, 2002

Here is a guide to some of the most important plums grown in California.

Angeleno: A big plum with purple skin and amber flesh; despite a grainy texture and mediocre flavor, it accounts for 19% of California's commercial crop. Picked in September.

Blackamber: A black-skinned plum with firm, light yellow flesh, it is usually picked immature in June and July, producing a bland flavor. Third leading California variety (10% of the crop).

Damson: A small, oval, purple-skinned variety, with tart astringency perfect for preserves. Found mostly at farmers markets and in gardens in August.

Elephant Heart: Large, with mottled brownish-purple skin, juicy, blood-red flesh and rich, distinctive flavor. An August favorite at farmers markets, but tastes grassy unless fully ripe.

French prune: A purplish-blue plum with greenish flesh that's dry and sweet. Picked in late August.

Friar: Black with pale flesh; often bland, but fairly sweet when ripe. The prototype of modern shipping plums and second leading California variety (16%).

Greengage: Green or golden skin and flesh and soft, intensely sweet flavor. Supreme European dessert plums, but rare here; occasionally found in Northern California in August.

Kelsey: A large, thin-skinned Asian variety with green fruit with a small cavity near the pit. Picked in late July, it sweetens early, while still hard.

Laroda: Dark purple with pale violet flesh and rich winy flavor. Picked mid-July.

Mariposa: A big, round plum with green skin and mottled maroon flesh. Sweet, juicy and rich in flavor. A late-July farmers market favorite.

Mirabelle: Small, round, yellowish or golden, this very sweet plum is superb fresh or made into jam. A small August crop in Northern California.

Myrobalan (cherry plum): Small cherry-like fruits, red, yellow or black. Occasionally sold at farmers markets in June and July.

Santa Rosa: Crimson-purple skin with amber flesh tinged red and the classic sweet-tart fruity flavor. Picked in June and early July.

Satsuma: Mottled maroon and green skin with dark red, meaty flesh; this sweet variety is popular in Southern California gardens. Picked late July.

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