The Reines-Claudes Plums Have Arrived!

apricots & reine claude plums

It’s that time of the year—the season for Reines-Claudes plums in France has arrived!

These little green fruits, no larger than a marshmallow, are perhaps the most delicious fruits in the world. Don’t let the army-green color fool you in to thinking these plums might be tart or sour. If you get a good one, reines-claudes plums (also known as Greengage plums), are the sweetest, most succulent piece of fruit you’ll bite into.

At markets in Paris, vendors will usually drape the paper label proudly boasting that theirs are from Moissac if they’re the real thing. They’re used to make jam, tarts, or can be preserved in eau de vie.

Me? I go right for the kill.

I buy a kilo bag (2#) at a time, which I go through in a day. I snack on them, plucking one out of the fruit bowl every time I pass by, sucking on the juices and spitting the slippery pit out, until I feel like I can’t eat any more.

Then, a few days later, I find myself at the market again, filling up yet another sack. So if you’re in France now, you must try them, or you’re missing something special. Elsewhere, check out your local farmer’s market. Perhaps someone in your area is growing them, and you can see for yourself what all the fuss it about.



Related Links

Greengage plums (In the US)

A Finicky Fruit is Sweet When Coddled (NYT)

Greengage plums (Wikipedia)

34 comments

  • Hmm, they are okay but give me a mango or a passionfruit anyday! So do they make nice jam? I might try that when they come back into season.

    Come to think of it I’ve got about 4 greengage seeds sitting on my window sill waiting to be put into a pot but I think it is too hot to grwo them here in Sydney.

    Talking about jam, I’ve just found that my local greengrocer sells seville oranges. I’ll be overflowing with orange marmalade by the end of this weekend.

  • Gosh, it’s almost the right period for Mirabelle too!!!
    How lucky you are to live in France: I would die for a kilo of mirabelles right now!!! :)

  • I am French, living in Holland and missing so much the reine-claude. Looking at your picture is really mouth-watering.

    I remember so well the delicious “tartes aux prunes” my grand mother used to bake. The smell of it, the taste of it, its beautiful caramelized juice.

    I would never make jam with it. They are so flavored and sweet, there is nothing you can do to enhance their taste. Except, maybe…a hardly cooked “compote” with fresh thym.

  • They look beautiful. Have you ever baked with them? How do the French use them other than eating them straight out of hand?

  • Hi Andrew: I love mangoes and passionfruit as well, but the Reine Claudes are the kings of fruit, in my book. I’ve never made jam from them since I prefer to use tart fruit, enjoying the juxtaposition of tangy and sweet.

    Curious that Seville oranges are just now appearing where you are. I thought the history of Seville oranges, and how they came to be used in jam-making, was interesting. Happy jamming!

    Matt: I’ve seen them used in tarts, but rarely. I think they’re best eaten raw, in fruit salads and the like. But someday I might try some jam—if I don’t eat them all first : )

  • Thanks for featuring these plums! I have to admit I’d have had no idea what they were, nor thought at all to try them. Now they’re on the list for today’s market run!

  • I’m with Andrew on that one. Mangoes and passion fruits, hands down. Although I must admit reine claudes come close second.

    xx fanny

  • I miss les Reines Claudes! If I am your source for blueberries in the U.S., can you be my source for Reines Claudes in France? At least vicariously… Thanks for the eye-candy!

  • I’ve never seen or heard of those before.

  • Ohhhh so happy to read this post today. I have not had a “greengage” plum in YEARS. Probably not since well before I left New Zealand. Certainly never seen them here in the USA. I often see green plums here – and get excited – but they are never a greengage *sigh*

    I will be in France in 3 days time YAHOO – so now I know to look for Reines Claudes!

  • They look fabulous David and those colors! I went to my market in search of plums on Saturday and nothing special. I won’t give up and will try to search these out here in Charleston. Great photo….

  • The reine claudes in my market right now are pretty hard. Are they supposed to be soft when you buy them, or can I just let them ripen in the bowl? I bought some mirabelles that were quite hard last week, and they just went to mush, as opposed to ever ripening nicely.

  • I love it when you showcase unique (to me anyway) produce like this. Thanks for taking the time to link information about these plums too.

    I’ve never done much cooking with plums because I didn’t think their pulp lended (lent?) itself well to baking. I think I thought they would get rubbery or too slippery or something, when baked (Same with grapes.) So I’ve just eaten them out of hand or in salads. I have seen more recipes using plums in the last few years, but haven’t been able to reconcile myself to it yet. What am I missing?

    Got any good recipes for them coming up? Of course you have recipes!

  • Thanks for introducing these to me a few years ago. I remember searching them out in a market in Lille–long before I found myself living in France, with an unlimited supply in season. Can I expand on Abra’s question? In your experience, what is the best way to buy Reine Claude–firm, fully green, turning golden-brown, etc.?
    I never buy jam fancier than Bon Maman, but I have to say they make a very good one w/Reine Claude. It’s available at the Monoprix at Ledru Rollin.

  • We finally have Santa Rosa plums here in the Bay Area! And I don’t know how they compare to your greengage plums(haven’t had any) but these sure are good……so good in fact, that I’ve already finished half of a 4 poud bag :D

  • It wasn’t a good year for reines claudes, because of the mild winter the flowers came early, and the temperatures went way below zero after that :/ … In my step-grand-mother’s garden, not even ONE fruit has grown instead of several big full baskets other years.

    But actually (yes, it’s a good piece of paradoxe ! :) ), this bad year for reine claudes made an EXcellent year for reines claudes at the same time : on the trees where there was some flowers left, the fruits became HUGE, one third bigger in most of cases.

    éeenormes, sautées à la poëlle et flambées à l’eau de vie, à côté d’un beau morceau de pintade dorée et des patates sautées, que demande le peuple ? :D

  • I am so jealous right now….

  • Here in the states we have been enjoying the pluots sold at grocery stores. There are a half dozen or so of these hybrids between apricots and plums being grown commercially. They are much sweeter than plums and so juicy that they require a bowl under your chin. So as to catch every amber drip. I found a small yellowy pink one of unknown cultivar that was the sweetest thing I have ever put in my mouth, yet had enough bright acidity to be perfect. I wish I knew which one it is.

    The Rainier cherries are just finishing. They are one of those fruits that must be grown in a particular part of Washington state to be worthy of the name Rainier. Do you get them (from Washington) over there?
    Deb

  • Deb: I love pluots, and Rainier cherries, but neither are available here in Paris. We do get Queen Anne cherries, which look similar to Rainier’s, but are hard to find and pretty expensive. I generally stick with big red Bings (and sour cherries), when I can find them, although cherry season is sadly over.

    Thank goodness for Reine Claudes!

  • They look quite delicious!

  • I am usually filled with envy when reading your blog, but not today. I will eat the last of my Rainiers with relish, thinking of all the poor Frenchmen who can’t have them. (I actually don’t think we should all have everything; blame it on my fundamentalist upbringing.) After reading the almost sexual description of the mangosteen in David Fairchild’s The World Was My Garden, I wanted one badly enough to consider a trip to South America. But I ultimately came to think that the reality could never live up to my decades of expectation.
    Deb

  • At Monterey Market yesterday I saw plums that looked like these but they were called Kelsey plums. Same thing??? I checked the links you referenced but found no mention of the Kelsey variety.

  • Hi Steve: Kelsey plums are green, usually teardrop shaped. I haven’t tasted one that I particularly liked, but I do know that Greengage plums are available in some Bay Area farmer’s markets. Pim found some near Santa Cruz for her jam-filled tarts. (linked in the post)

    Perhaps she’ll share!

  • The question is, do you have a good recipe for le pâté aux prunes?

  • I had these growing in my yard last year — I’ve had this house six years and for the first time last summer, the plum tree in the back had fruit. I waited and waited for the plums to turn purple. One day I was sitting out back and I heard a green plum fall from the tree — like Newton’s awakening it came to me — they were greengage! The most delicious thing ever — so sweet, so juicy — sadly, this year we had a late snow and there are no greengages, just the little tart “wild” plums.

  • I was turned on to reine claudes after reading Joanne Harris’s wonderful “Five Quarters of the Orange.” Sadly I’d already left Paris and couldn’t find any until I stumbled upon a little jar of whole, preserved ones in a little market in Boston of all places. I realize it won’t be the same, but I’m excited to try them anyway. I’m thinking I might try to add big chunks into homemade gelato or something. Enjoy those fresh ones for me; they look mouthwateringly gorgeous!

  • I finally picked some up a the marché this morning along with a handful of mirabelles. My verdict is OMG, how could I have not known about these until now? I never would have thought to try them before, so thanks for the post!

  • I have two greengage plum trees in my orchard, but one is too young to produce and the other is taking some time off after being transplanted. I was so happy to find some of these at the farmers’ market this weekend. I think they’ll be jam, though, as they were picked not quite ripe and so are not as good for eating fresh. They are one of my favorites and your picture made me drool, even though I have a similar pile sitting in front of me. I bet they taste better in Paris, though. ;)

  • I live in the upper eastern piedmont region in the States, (NC), and have the same addiction to the Rene Claude’s and Mirabelle’s. The taste and texture is simply impossible to put to words once you’ve had the first bite. The French know fine food like no other culture in the world and have made culinary perfection a national pursuit. I’ve been growing a few French plums here and they are doing very well. I have Rene Claude Doree, Mirabelle de Metz, Mirabelle de Nancy, Geneva Mirabelle, and the Reine de Mirabelle. Beautiful article!

  • David:

    Am trying to figure out if the three HUGE trees, dripping with tiny green plums, are Reine-Claude. They’re from a VERY old orchard (probably planted in the 1920’s or earlier) sitting above Lake Washington in the Seward Park area of Seattle. It looks like when they are ripe they are yellow, but very small and not freestone. Any ideas?

    Best, Mauny Kaseburg

  • Dear Maury: They may just be wild plums. I would take some to your local cooperative extension and they can likely identify them for you.

  • We tried them in Lyon last week, and they were extremely delicious indeed :)

  • Yay, I’m so looking forward to my trip to France. My family and I are leaving on Saturday. Hopefully we pass through Somewhere where I can buy some plums!

    By the way, I’m going to stay 5 months in Nantes and would love to get a part-time job related to food – if only not to go mad seeing as the dorm kitchen won’t be too, how should I put this, proper. En général, do nice-food-making-places need an additional pair of (untrained) hands or not?

    I don’t know how to get a job, but am planning a post in how to get an internship in a French restaurant, so keep an eye out for that on the site. -dl

  • D- read The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden- http://www.rumergodden.com/greengage.html it’s a charming novel set in Champagne country. My R-C jam is slightly caramelized/sticky AND tart! will post a recipe and a jar to you.