Lemon Plum: Description, Flavor, Benefits, And Uses

The lemon plum (botanical name Prunus cerasifera) is a deciduous fruit tree native to temperate climates. It is the only species in the genus Prunus with both edible and ornamental varieties, making it a popular choice for gardeners worldwide. Lemon plum trees have an average life expectancy of 10-15 years but can live up to 25 years when properly cared for. Here is everything you wanted to know about Lemon Plum.

What is Lemon Plum?

The lemon plum is a hybrid fruit created by crossing the Japanese apricot (Prunus mume) and European plum (Prunus domestica). It undergoes a dramatic color change as it ripens. Initially, it is a bright, lemony yellow, which gradually turns into a deep, reddish-pink. When fully ripe, Lemon Plums have a sweet and slightly tart flavor. The taste is often described as a blend of traditional plum flavors with a hint of lemon and oranges.
When fully ripe, Lemon Plums have a sweet and slightly tart flavor. The taste is often described as a blend of traditional plum flavors with a hint of citrus. They possess a juicy and firm flesh, which becomes softer and more succulent as the fruit matures.

Lemon plum makes an excellent addition to smoothies and salads and can also be used in jams, jellies, sauces, and baked goods. Its tart-sweet flavor pairs well with other fruits like raspberries and apples. It’s also a great source of vitamins A and C, fiber, potassium, folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc.

Lemon Plum Description

History and Origin of Lemon Plum:

The Lemon Plum is believed to have originated from selective breeding programs, possibly in Chile or another region with a suitable climate for plum cultivation. The lemon plum is a hybrid of the Japanese apricot and the North American cherry plum. Its first documented appearance was in 1820, when an English botanist named William Kerr noted its existence in China. It was introduced to Britain shortly after, quickly becoming a popular garden fruit tree.

In the United States, the lemon plum was first grown in California. It was first cultivated in 1883 when a shipment of trees from China arrived at the San Francisco port. The trees were planted in several locations throughout the state, including San Diego and Santa Barbara.

The popularity of the lemon plum quickly spread across other states, and it is now grown in gardens and on farms throughout the country. It is a popular choice for making jams, jellies, and preserves due to its intense flavor and aroma. In addition, it’s often used in baking recipes, such as pies and cakes. Finally, although not as popular as other stone fruits, the lemon plum has recently become a favorite among hobbyists and professional growers. Its unique characteristics make it an excellent choice for home gardens and commercial orchards. It is sure to remain a favorite fruit tree for many years to come.

Description of the Lemon Plum: 

The most distinctive feature of the Lemon Plum is its shape, which resembles a lemon. It has an elongated, oval form that tapers to a point at one end. The Lemon Plum is small to medium-sized, measuring 3 – 5 cm in diameter. Its skin is smooth and thin, yellowish-green, while its flesh is greenish-yellow or pale yellow. It has a tart flavor that gives it the nickname “sour plum.” The seed inside the Lemon Plum is usually small and easy to remove. It is often eaten fresh but can also be made into jellies, jams, or a cooked side dish.

Flavor Profile of the Lemon Plum: 

When first bitten into, the Lemon Plum typically presents a bright and slightly acidic taste, reminiscent of citrus fruits. This initial tanginess is what gives the fruit part of its name and sets it apart from other plum varieties. As the fruit ripens, it develops a pronounced sweetness. The sugar content increases, balancing the initial tartness with a deep, rich sweetness that is characteristic of ripe plums. The degree of sweetness can vary depending on the ripeness of the fruit, with fully ripe Lemon Plums being particularly sweet.

Even at peak ripeness, Lemon Plums retain a subtle tartness that adds complexity to their flavor profile. This tartness is more nuanced than the initial acidity and blends harmoniously with the sweetness. Beyond the primary sweet and tart notes, Lemon Plums have a range of fruity undertones. These can include hints of peach, apricot, and even berry-like flavors, contributing to a multi-layered taste experience.

Nutritional Value of Lemon Plum:

Lemon Plums, like other varieties of plums, are nutritious fruits that offer a range of health benefits. Their nutritional value includes a good balance of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber, making them a healthy addition to your diet. They are an excellent source of Vitamin C, which is vital for immune system function, skin health, and the absorption of iron from foods. They also contain Vitamin A, important for vision health, immune function, and skin integrity.

Lemon Plums are a good source of potassium, which is crucial for maintaining healthy blood pressure and proper muscle and nerve function. They also have calcium and magnesium, which are important for bone health and metabolic functions. Lemon Plums are rich in dietary fiber, which is beneficial for digestive health. Fiber helps with regular bowel movements and can aid in preventing constipation. It also plays a role in maintaining a healthy weight and lowering the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Lemon Plums are low in calories, making them an ideal snack for weight management. They provide a feeling of fullness without adding too many calories.

Cultivation of the Lemon Plum: 

Lemon Plum trees thrive in moderate climates and require a cold period during the winter for effective fruit setting, yet they are vulnerable to very low temperatures. Select an area that receives continuous sunlight, with the trees needing 6 to 8 hours of direct sun daily. It’s important to plant them in a location that is protected from strong winds, which helps safeguard both the tree and its developing fruits. The ideal soil for these trees is well-drained and loamy, although they are adaptable to various soil types, provided you avoid extremely clayey or sandy soils. A soil pH that is slightly acidic to neutral, ranging from 6.0 to 7.0, is optimal. Enhance the soil with organic materials, such as compost or aged manure prior to planting.

The best time to plant Lemon Plum trees is during their dormant phase, usually in the late winter or early spring. Make sure there is sufficient room for the trees to grow, spacing them about 15-20 feet apart from each other. Consistent watering is vital, particularly in the initial years, to ensure the soil remains moist but not saturated. Surround the base of the tree with organic mulch to help retain soil moisture and control weed growth.

The Lemon Plum is a unique and incredibly versatile fruit that can be used in numerous recipes or enjoyed as nature intended. Whether you eat it fresh, cook it, or preserve it for later, this tasty and nutritious citrus fruit will undoubtedly add a delicious flavor to your meals.

lemon plum cultivation

Harvesting of the Lemon Plum: 

Harvest Lemon Plums when they change color from yellow to reddish-pink and yield slightly to gentle pressure. The harvest should be done carefully by hand so as not to bruise the fruit, as it is easily damaged and can degrade quickly. Depending on the desired size, fruits are usually picked in trays or bags. After harvesting, the fruits must be stored at low temperatures and handled carefully. It is important to protect the fruits from direct sunlight to avoid damage.

Harvesting of the Lemon Plum typically begins in late summer and can last through early fall. The fruit should be picked with a yellow or orange color when it is fully ripe. If you pick it before it is completely ripe, store it in a cool area until it reaches its full ripeness. When harvesting from the tree, handle it carefully to avoid bruising or damaging the plums.

Lemon Plum Harvesting

Where Does Lemon Plum Grow? 

The lemon plum is a tropical fruit that grows in warm climates. It has grown best in USDA hardiness zones 10-11, which means it can tolerate temperatures down to 30°F (or -1°C). The tree is native to Southeast Asia and the Caribbean but can now grow in many other tropical regions worldwide.

In the United States, lemon plum is grown in states with warmer climates, including California, Texas, Florida, and Hawaii. It can also be found in Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands. In Europe, it is mainly grown in some southern Mediterranean countries, such as Spain and Greece.

They are also cultivated in many African countries, such as Nigeria, Cameroon, Kenya, and Uganda. It is grown in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Indonesia in Asia. They can also be found in parts of South America, such as Brazil and Argentina.

What do you need to keep in mind when buying Lemon Plum?

  • Ripeness and Color:
    • They change color as they ripen, starting from a bright lemon-yellow and transitioning to a reddish-pink hue. Choose fruits based on your consumption plans: slightly less ripe if you won’t eat them immediately, and more ripe for immediate consumption.
    • Avoid plums with greenish hues, as this indicates under-ripeness.
  • Texture and Firmness:
    • Feel the fruit. It should be firm but yield slightly to gentle pressure, indicating ripeness. Overly hard plums may be underripe, while very soft ones could be overripe or spoiled.
  • Skin Condition:
    • Inspect the skin for blemishes, bruises, or cuts. Smooth, unblemished skin is a good indicator of quality. Minor imperfections might not affect the taste, but significant damage can lead to early spoilage.
  • Aroma:
    • Smell the plums. A ripe Lemon Plum will have a sweet and fruity aroma. A lack of smell can suggest the fruit is not yet ripe.
  • Size and Shape:
    • Check for a consistent size and the characteristic lemon-like shape. While size can vary, uniformity can be an indicator of quality.
  • Seasonality:
    • Purchase Lemon Plums during their peak season, which is typically late winter to early spring. Seasonal fruits are generally fresher and more flavorful.
  • Organic or Conventional:
    • Decide whether you prefer organic Lemon Plums or conventionally grown ones. Organic fruits are grown without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.
  • Source and Freshness:
    • Consider where the plums are sourced from. Locally sourced fruits are often fresher due to shorter transit times.
  • Storage:
    • Plan how you will store the plums. If not consuming immediately, store them in a cool place or refrigerate to prolong freshness. Remember, they continue to ripen after being picked.
  • Price:
    • Compare prices, especially if you’re buying in larger quantities. Prices can vary based on the source, organic certification, and season.

What is the Best Way to Store Lemon Plums?

When ripe, the Lemon Plum has an excellent shelf life and can be stored at room temperature or in coolers for up to two weeks without any serious loss in quality or flavor. Once cooked or canned, its shelf life increases significantly, allowing you to enjoy this delicious fruit for months.

The best way to store Lemon plums is in a cool, dry place. Keep them away from heat and direct sunlight. If you store the fruit for over a day or two, keeping them in the refrigerator is best. Make sure the temperature stays between 32-41ºF (0-5ºC).

Keep Lemon plums in a breathable container, such as a paper bag or an open container. This will allow air to circulate and prevent the fruits from spoiling. If storing them for longer periods, it may be best to freeze them. Make sure to wrap each fruit individually with plastic wrap so that they do not stick together when frozen. Proper storage allows you to keep Lemon plums for up to 3 months.

How to Use Lemon Plum in Recipes with Others?

Lemon Plum can be used in various recipes to add sweetness and tartness. It pairs best with other fruits like apples, pears, or strawberries. You can also use Lemon Plum to make jams and jellies or use it in cakes and pies. It is especially tasty with other sweet ingredients like honey or maple syrup.

Lemon Plum can also make sauces or marinades for meats and fish. It pairs well with fresh herbs such as parsley, rosemary, and thyme. Chop up the Lemon Plum fruit into small pieces and add it to your favorite sauce or marinade recipe. You can also use Lemon Plum in smoothies, juices, and cocktails. Blend the fruit with juicy ingredients like pineapple or orange juice and enjoy its unique flavor.

With so many uses for Lemon Plum, it’s easy to see how this versatile fruit can be incorporated into your cooking. Whether making jams or marinades, adding them to sauces or smoothies, it will surely make your recipes more flavorful.

lemon plum cake and caramalized lemon plum


Lemon Plum is a unique and flavorful fruit that can be easily incorporated into your cooking. Whether you’re making jams or sauces, adding it to juices and smoothies, or using it in marinades for meats and fish, it will surely add a special flavor touch to any dish. Proper storage allows you to keep your Lemon Plum fruits fresh and juicy for up to 3 months. So make sure to take advantage of this delicious and versatile fruit!