At the farmers' market last week, we overheard someone complain rather sharply that a vendor was selling "unripe plums." By the time we turned around he was gone, doomed to miss out on the true delicacy of sour plums. While it is true that these cherry-sized fruits are unripe, in the case of green plums that's not necessarily a bad thing. Young, sour plums have traditionally been enjoyed in the Middle East and Asia, where they may be eaten raw or preserved. They're known as goje sabz in Iran, jarareng in Lebanon, erik in Turkey, mei in China, and ume in Japan. Although these are not all the same variety of plum, they may be used in similar ways.
We particularly enjoy eating the tart, crunchy plums as a snack, sometimes dipped in a little salt. This week we tried an easy, spicy pickle recipe from Felicia Friesema at LA Weekly, and we also plan to make umeshu, a Japanese plum liqueur that appeared on the Kitchn a couple years ago.
Have you had sour green plums? How do you like to eat them?
Emily Ho is a writer, recipe developer, and educator. She lives in Los Angeles, where she teaches classes on food preservation, wild food, and herbalism. Emily is a Master Food Preserver and founder of LA Food Swap and the international Food Swap Network.
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