Which Plums Are Tart or Sour? Tart & Sour Plum Varieties

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Which Plums Are Tart or Sour? Tart & Sour Plum Varieties

When most of us think of plums, we picture sweet, succulent fruit that leaves juice dribbling from our chins. Not all plums fit this description. 

Plums have a history of cultivation and hybridization that goes back over 5,000 years. In that time, there have been plum varieties developed with almost every imaginable flavor profile. 

In this article, we will look at: 

  • Which plums are tart?
  • Which plums are sour?
  • What you can do with tart plums.

It should be noted that even the sweetest varieties of plums can occasionally turn out tart due to variance in growing conditions and other factors. 

Let’s jump right in.

List of The Most Tart Plum Varieties

Tart is defined as an acidic taste that has a bit of sweetness to it. Think of lemon aid.

  • Damson Plum

damson plums

Damson plums will be a double entry on our lists. This dark-skinned European plum has several sub-species that vary in character. Damson Plums with amber to orange flesh tend to be sweeter and less sour, giving their overall taste a tart note.

  • French Prune

French prunes are one of the most popular plums in the world. It is shaped much like a pear but only grows to the size of walnuts. Sweet when allowed to over ripen, it has a distinct tart taste when eaten while still firm.

  • Myrobalan (Cherry Plums)


Cherry Plums have several different subspecies. Those Myrobalan varieties that are tart are considered only suitable for use in jellies and baking.

  • Black Amber

black amber plums

Black Amber plums are Japanese plums that get their name from their thick dark purple skins and deep amber-colored flesh. Eaten fresh, black amber plums are very tart and at their best when used in making plum pastries and jams. 

  • Elephant Heart Plum

elephant heart plums

Elephant Heart Plums are unusual because most of their tartness is in the flesh, and the skin actually has a berry sweetness. Peeled, this Japanese plum variety is perfect for plum cakes, and other baking uses. Fresh its taste can be a little much to take. 

List of Sour Plum Varieties

Sour is a taste or smell that is disagreeably acidic and lacking any sweetness. Think of pure lemon juice or vinegar. 

  • Damson Plum

Damson plums are European plums with dark purple skin. They come in several varieties, some of which are merely tart. Those types with yellow to green flesh are considered sour and have a definite pucker factor. 

  • Umeboshi Plums

pickled umeboshi plums

Umeboshi Plums are a variety that has been used in Japanese cooking for centuries. They are often dried or pickled and used mixed with rice as a side dish. Because of their intense taste, which comes from high concentrations of citric acid, Umeboshi Plums are rarely eaten whole.   

  • Persian Plums

Persian plums

Persian plums are small (less than an inch) green fruits that have been a staple street snack throughout the Mediterranean for centuries. Green-skinned with green flesh, Persian plums are exceedingly sour and are typically eaten sprinkled with salt, chili powder, or Aleppo pepper. Several varieties are now being grown in California for the U.S. market. 

What to Do with Tart Plums

candied plums

A fact of life is that if you buy many plums occasionally you will get a very tart batch. Even the sweetest varieties can end up being tart if the growing conditions have been poor that year. 

While you may begrudge the luscious fruit flavor you were expecting, all is not lost. There are many delicious ways to enjoy your plums, even if they are beyond tart and sour.

  • Plum compote is a beautiful way to use tart fruit and create a festive feeling at meals.
  • Tart jams, in the tradition of English Marmalades, can be delicious.
  • Tart plums are excellent for making candied fruits.
  • Tart plums are ideal for baking plum cakes and pastries.
  • Plum syrup can be easily made and is wonderful on pancakes, waffles, and ice cream.
  • Use tart plums to add zing to smoothes.