Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

The greengage and the Armenian connection

Many people all over the world know the plum and consider these fruits nice to eat when mature and freshly picked. However, mention the word “greengage” and most people today have no idea of what you are talking about. And yet, as a type of plum, it is so delicate and flavourful that it is rightly considered as the most flavoursome of all the tree fruits known.

Let us compare the greengage with other fruits grown in the moderate climate zone. In a ranking of soft fruits, many would consider the raspberry to be at the top. Of all the fruits grown on trees, the greengage is rightly considered as unsurpassed in delicacy and flavour, when freshly picked and fully mature . So why are these trees and their fruits not better known? Why are these fruits, when in season, not more regularly available in modern supermarkets? Even in France and Italy it is more widely available on street markets when in season, but not in supermarket outlets.

In the UK, this special plum is known as a Greengage. If you spoke to people in Holland, for example, about this fruit, they wouldn’t know what you are talking about!

There are several reasons for this relative obscurity. One of the reasons is that this particular group of plums is only commercially success for a very small band of dedicated fruit growers, wherever they are grown. However if grown with plenty of TLC and dedication in the garden, the fruits are so special they need to be reserved for your own family and only the best of friends. If the crop is heavy, which is never the case 3 years in a row, it makes the most tasty of all jams.

Because of the quality of these fruits and my many years of experience of trying to grow these fruits, I consider it worthwhile to record my findings along with some historical background for these wonderful plums. The reader may want to skip various sections of this report. For that reason I will group the various details in a series of posts, as follows:

1) Historical background,
2) The most suitable sites for these plums,
3) Most suitable soils and their maintenance,
4) The different varieties available,
5) The essentials of growing these varieties,
6) The pruning needs of these plums,
7) Successful control of the pests and diseases.

In the photo below, greengages, photo courtesy of Rain Rabbit/


3 responses to “The greengage and the Armenian connection

  1. Anne Skennerton June 10, 2015 at 9:19 am

    We have a dwarf (about 5′) very small tree that is a mass of blossom in Spring & it produced small, rough & dark reddish skinned, roundish fruit with little neck. Its bark looks old & it shoots from its base – I cut them back. I don’t know when to pick it. Last year it took well into the Autumn before I finally thought I should pick them because the stalks don’t weaken. The flesh however was softish, over ripe contrasting with the rough skin, & not a brilliant flavour. Any idea what it is & when to harvest it? It’s not like any of your online varieties.

    • realenglishfruit June 11, 2015 at 6:54 am

      Hello, thank you for your comment. This is most likely a small damson type such as Zwetche, a German prune or a Shropshire prune, grown on a dwarf stock called Pixie. These fruits mature very late and are mainly used for jam making. The fact that the tree suckers badly (shoots springing from the lower part of the trunk) is evidence of the use of a dwarf rootstock. The best harvest date is late September. These are not dessert varieties but processing fruits.

      • Anne Skennerton June 11, 2015 at 8:57 am

        Thank you for this information. I have to say that because it has small white blossom like our Conference Pear & at the same time (nothing from the plums then), & its young fruit even now are pear like, & it grows into a rounded pear shape only a stubby neck & rough, reddish skin all over the fruit which also is fleshy like a pear (not juicy like a plum), I assume it’s a pear but have found nothing similar. Given its odd slightly drying, grainy pulp I did think about it being for cooking – as you suggest, but can’t think of many pear recipes that I’d bother with. I ate them but they’re nowhere like the juicy sweet conference. I wondered if I could improve it?

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