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.