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Trio of New Plums for Spring and Summer

By Marcia Wood
April 9, 2004

Three kinds of plump, tasty plums from Agricultural Research Service tree fruit breeders in California will make fans of this spring-through-fall stonefruit come back for more. The plums are the fruit of more than a decade of plant breeding and testing by ARS geneticist David W. Ramming and colleagues in the Postharvest Quality and Genetics Research Unit, part of the agency's San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center at Parlier, Calif.

Named Black Splendor, Owen T and John W, each of the new plum varieties ripens in a different season, giving shoppers more choices of this healthful fruit.

The juicy, beet-red flesh of Black Splendor plum makes this big fruit an especially colorful addition to fresh fruit salads. It ripens in early June, and is both bigger and earlier than the well-known Santa Rosa plum.

Owen T has blue-black skin with some touches of purple, and sweet, light-yellow flesh. It is ready to harvest in late June through early July. Ramming named this plum after Owen Tanner, who was a technician with the California tree fruit breeding team for more than 30 years.

Ramming named the latest-ripening of the three plums, John W, for the late John Weinberger, who was a tree fruit and grape breeder with the ARS research center at its former location in Fresno, and was selected for the ARS scientific Hall of Fame.

John W plums have purple skin dusted with light-tan specks, and luscious orange flesh. This fruit ripens in late August through early September.

Since first offering these plums to nursery operators, researchers and others in 2001 and 2002, Ramming has filled requests for more than 1,200 cuttings and more than 50,000 buds, so the plums may begin showing up in supermarkets this year.

Read more about the research in the April issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.