Have you ever noticed those purple splodges on the pavement underneath purple-leaved trees? Well guess what?! Those are cherry plums. The City of Vancouver has planted many cherry plums as street trees because of their beautiful blossoms in the Spring, but they also bear fruit.
There seem to be two kinds of Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera) planted as street trees here, Night Purple Leaf Plum and Pissard Plum. The Pissard Plum is definitely the more common one, but the recent plantings seem to be mostly Night Purple Leaf Plums. Maybe they are a hardier variety.
The fruit from these trees can vary in size, from something very akin to a cherry all the way to a big chubby apricot. Not all of the trees bear fruit, but don’t be fooled to easily into thinking there aren’t any on a tree because they are hella camouflaged. The leaves and the fruit are EXACTLY the same colour, so you really have to stare and the angle of the sun needs to be just right to help point them out.
The fruit on a city street tree is public, so if you can reach them with a ladder or a fruit picker of some sort (I have a can with a notch cut out of it stuck on the then end of a wooden broom handle) you can have your fill.
They are perfect and ripe right now and it’s easy to spot fecund trees by the squished plums underneath them. They are very juicy, so where fruit picking clothes.
There are so many of them in the city, but if you’re not sure where to find one use the Falling Fruit website. Click the ‘Zoom to Me’ button, type “plum” in the filter box, and click ‘Apply’. Once it’s refreshed, you’ll see all of the cherry plums marked on a map. Cool right? This site uses the Street Trees database that the City of Vancouver has made public as part of their open data project. The dedicated folks at Falling Fruit filtered this data to only include trees and shrubs that are edible in some way. I used it recently to discover the one and only public mulberry tree in the city! What a treat.
The fruit from each tree tastes a little different and, like I already said, can vary in size. I put some firmer ones into whiskey which I’m super excited about. It has turned an amazing red colour and smells delicious. I’ve used ripe cherry plums in baking and ice cream. I think they would make an incredible fruit wine and sometimes they taste like wine already. So good.