Texas Wild Plums

"You should make this wine every year!"

The Texas Wild Plum (Prunus texana) is small and tart. In size, it can be from little bigger than a marble to slightly smaller than a golf ball. It flowers early, fruits early, and is usually gone by the end of May. Indeed, my trees dropped their last plum this year around May 16th. But there are many other wild plums that can be used in winemaking. Over half are found in parts of Texas.

Prunus alleghaniensis (Alleghany or Allegheny Plum) is the common wild plum of the northeastern United States. Their fruit are dark purple with yellow flesh.

Prunus americana (American Plum, but also called American Red Plum, American Yellow Plum, Native Plum, Wild Plum, River Plum, August Plum, Goose Plum, Canadian Plum) is a wide-ranging species found almost everywhere in the United States except from the Texas panhandle up through the great plains. One-inch red, yellow or reddish-orange fruit with yellow flesh make excellent wine. This is the predominate wild plum of the eastern and central United States.

Prunus angustifolia (Chickasaw Plum, but also known as Hog Plum) is native to Arkansas and surrounding states, including Texas. Their fruit are small (1/2 in.) and red and turn yellowish when ripe although some retain a reddish blush. The flesh is yellow.

Chickasaw Plum

Chickasaw Plum (P. angustifolia)

Prunus ilicifolia (Evergreen Cherry, Holly-Leaf Cherry, Islay) is native to California. It has spiny leathery leaves, showy white flowers and a very thin flesh that yields very little juice. The flowers make better wine than the fruit.

Prunus maritima (Beach Plum, Shore Plum) is native to the seacoast of the northeast, with small (1/2 to 1 in.) bluish-purple fruit, but red or yellow fruit are also known. Makes excellent wine.

Prunus mexicana (Mexican Plum, but also Fall Plum and Bigree Plum) is another native plum of Texas. It has a pinkish-purplish to reddish coloring, yellow flesh, and is very flavorful. Fruit average 1 inch diameter.

Prunus munsoniana (Munson Plum, Potawatamie Plum, Wild Goose Plum) ranges from Texas to Illinois to Kentucky, is yellow when ripe with yellow flesh, and is quite flavorful.

Prunus rivularis (Creek Plum and also Hog Plum) is native to Texas up to Colorado and Kansas. The small (3/8 in.) fruit ripen to a pinkish-purple with yellow flesh and are very flavorful.

Prunus subcordata (Pacific Plum, but also known as Klamath Plum and Sierra Plum) is native to northern California and up through the Pacific Northwest. It is large (up to 1-1/2 in.) for a wild plum, bright red at maturity, very tastey, and has spawned two cultivars. Some with yellow fruit are known, probably due to natural hybridization.

Prunus gracilis (Sour Plum, also Oklahoma Plum and Sand Plum) ranges from Texas to Kansas to Tennessee. It grows more as a shrub than a tree with red fruit when ripe. It is not considered a very good eating plum, but makes very decent wine.

Prunus Texana (Texas Plum, but also Sand Plum, Peach Bush)) is native to one small area of south-central Texas (over and around the Edwards Aquifer) and produces small (1/2 to 3/4 in.) yellowish-orange to orangish-red fruit with yellow flesh. Slightly tart, they make great wine. They are ripe when you reach up and grab one and it just drops off in your hand. The small ones might contain more stone than fruit pulp, but their flavor in jelly or wine is worth the trouble of such meager offerings. They store reasonably well in the refrigerator until enough are collected for a batch of wine. Six pounds is a perfect amount, but one could make a reasonable wine with only five pounds. By themselves, they make a fairly thin wine with a strong, tannic bite. The recipe below improves upon those deficiencies by adding golden raisins for body and bananas for smoothness.

One word of warning. This wine MUST age at least two years before tasting, and even then will only be marginal. However, it improves dramatically with another year's maturation, so make it with a three-year aging in mind. Because it takes so long to mature, you should make this wine every year.

Texas Wild Plum Wine

Wash the plums and remove any that show signs of insect infestation. Place them on paper towels to dry and leave them at least two hours. Put the plums in a bowl and place in refrigerator. In 1-2 weeks they will turn dark. Meanwhile, buy 2 lbs bananas and let them get ripe. If they turn slightly mushy, so much the better. The only parts to discard are sections of flesh that actually turn brown. When plums are ready, put water on to boil and chop or mince the raisins. Put the plums in a sterilized plastic pail and mash them with the end of a sterilized piece of hardwood (the thick end of a baseball bat works great), but do not crack the seeds. Just mash the plums up as best you can. Now peel the bananas and slice them thinly (1/2 inch maximum), adding them to the plums. Add the chopped or minced raisins and the sugar. Pour the boiling water over this, stir well with a wooden paddle to dissolve sugar, and cover with a clean dish towel. When cooled to 70-75 degrees F., stir in the crushed Campden tablet. Recover the pail and let sit 12 hours. Stir in the pectic enzyme and yeast nutrient. Recover and set aside another 12 hours. Add the yeast (if dry, sprinkle over the top and DO NOT STIR for 24 hours) and recover. When fermentation is strong (for dry yeast, about three days; for an already started yeast, the next day), begin punching down the cap of pulp twice daily. After 7 days of strong fermentation, drain off some liquid and measure specific gravity. When S.G. is 1.020 (may take up to 10 days), strain pulp through a nylon straining bag and squeeze to extract as much juice as possible. Discard pulp and return all juice to pail and ferment another two days. Siphon off stones and sediments into secondary and fit airlock. When ferment dies down to a steady bubbling, top up to within one inch of airlock. Rack into clean secondary after 60 days, top up and refit airlock. Repeat 60 days later. In another 60 days the wine should be clear, but if it isn't, rack again and allow another 60 days. If clear and all fermentation has stopped, rack into bottles. [Author's own recipe]

Again, this wine MUST age AT LEAST two years (I wouldn't touch it for three), but will be worth the wait.

This page was updated on September 11th, 2004.

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