Excerpt from the Popular Garden Series magabook Orcharding with permission from its publisher, BowTie magazines, a division of BowTie Inc. Purchase Orcharding here.
Plums were domesticated in China more than 2,000 years ago and have figured in written documents since 479 B.C. These fruits were the plums Confucius praised in his writings and the ancestors of today’s Asian plums.
Wild plums flourished throughout the Old and New Worlds. In fact, the domestic plums we eat today descend from numerous sources. Unfortunately, historians disagree about the domestic plum’s early history. For instance, the European plum (Prunus domestica) probably originated in the Caucasus Mountains in an area near the Caspian Sea. Some sources believe this plum was carried to Rome around 200 B.C., then north to Europe; others say that the Duke of Anjou carried the plum home as he returned from Jerusalem at the close of the Fifth Crusade (1198 to 1204) A.D.
Whichever is true, the French enthusiastically embraced the European plum, both fresh and dried as prunes. Eventually, French immigrants carried plum pits to Quebec, where a traveler recorded plum orchards flourishing as early as 1771. Plums also came to North America with British settlers.