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What are Greengages?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated Feb 28, 2024
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Greengages are beautiful, oval-shaped plums with either green or light gold skin. They may also be more commonly called Reine Claude, since they were domesticated in France. Outside of France, especially in English speaking countries all drupaceous fruits of the Prunus genus can sometimes be referred to as gages. Since the skin of this particular plum is green, the name greengages has stuck, though you will find different cultivars of the greengage, especially in the UK, where these plums are widely grown.

Though first cultivated in France from wild species, Sir William John Gage is credited with bringing these lovely plums to England in the 18th century. Later, they were imported for growth in America. Several of the US’ early presidents grew them, but greengages didn’t thrive as well in US climates, and have never held the popularity in the US that they hold elsewhere. In fact, few cultivars of greengages are now grown in the US, though you can look for the Washington and Denniston varieties, and in Canada the Ontario variety of the greengage is grown.

To fans of greengages, it’s a shame that they’re not more widely available since these palm size fruits burst with flavor. Some compare them to honey in taste, as the yellow flesh of the fruit is exceptionally sweet with a slight tang that many plum varieties seem to possess. In the UK, other parts of Europe and in Australia and New Zealand, it’s not unusual to see greengages in jam, tarts or in other desserts. They’re also simply eaten as is because many argue that the plum needs no embellishment. They do need to be picked when fully ripe, as they won’t ripen well if picked early and will be bitter in taste.

In Europe you’ll find greengages in season in August. In the US you may find a few imports, or be lucky enough to find one of the varietals from a US grower at about the same time. Greengages are also imported from New Zealand to the US and Europe in late March, and this is a good time to look for them at grocery stores. Like most plums, the season for these honey-flavored fruits is short and easy to miss. They don’t keep well; so you may want to plan for the season of these fruits, especially if you live in an area where they aren’t widely grown.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By momothree — On Aug 23, 2010

@dega2010: In my Biology class, we studied these crossbred fruits and it was very interesting. When Floyd Zaiger started his work, he followed Burbank’s plumcot method. He used a 50/50 plum and apricot split. He then took the plumcot and bred it with a plum to create the pluot.

I have heard that the pluot tastes more like the plum and the plucot tastes more like an apricot. The pluot consists of much more intricate crossbreeding, over many generations, than the plumcot.

By alex94 — On Aug 23, 2010

@dega2010: I was very confused about the pluot, as well. There are actually 3 different but related fruits that confuse me. They are the pluots, plucots, and apriums.

To the best of my knowledge, this is how they came about: The pluot is a cross between a plum and an apricot. Over 100 years ago, a horticulturalist named Luther Burbank crossed a plum with an apricot, creating these half-plum, half-apricot hybrids. He called it a plumcot.

Another man, by the name of Floyd Zaiger, continued his work and then began backcrossing the plumcots with plums making a more complex hybrid. These were marketed with a different name: the pluot.

By dega2010 — On Aug 23, 2010

Since we're talking about plums, does anyone know exactly what a pluot is? I've heard that it's a plum and others have told me that it is an apricot.

By anon37374 — On Jul 19, 2009

Too many ads. Prefer to access information elsewhere due to the inordinately high level of ads on this site.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen

Writer

With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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