Known for its silky pulp and vibrant flavor, the Santa Rosa plum is a popular fruit, often found in the late summer. Bred by the famed horticulturist Luther Burbank, the plum is named for the town of its origin. Excellent as a cooking and eating plum, the Santa Rosa plum is rarely planted commercially, but often available through farmer's markets and artisan growers.
Unlike commercially-grown dark purple plums, the Santa Rosa plum tends to have a deep reddish color with a white or grey bloom on the skin when ripe. The flesh is typically pale yellow with a reddish tinge around the bottom of the fruit. When purchasing, the buyer should look for firm, bright red plums that are not too dark or squishy. To ripen an unready plum, simply place it in a paper bag, tie the bag shut, and leave at room temperature for a day or two.
Luther Burbank, best known for developing the russet potato which remains the standard for baking and french fry production, introduced the Santa Rosa plum in 1906. Though it spent several decades at the top of the commercial market, the variety began to lose popularity in the mid-20th century. The tree is now a favorite of small growers, and as a self-pollinating tree, can easily be grown by novice gardeners in temperate climates.
Santa Rosa plum trees can often be purchased from nurseries or garden centers, and are generally planted after the final frost of the year. Mature trees can reach over to 20 ft (6 m) in height, and require yearly pruning. The plum tree loves full sunlight, and can tolerate many types of soil. Fruit typically appears when the tree is three years old, though trees in cooler climates may take a few years longer to begin fruiting. Plums begin to form in early summer, and are usually ripe by late July or early August.
Suitable for a variety of cooking purposes, the Santa Rosa plum can also be eaten directly off the tree. An exquisite plum jam can be made with the fruit, particularly with slightly over-ripe plums that will add intense flavor to preserves. Plum crumbles, crisps, and cobblers frequently use this variety of plum, and firm specimens can even be glazed with honey and grilled over a barbeque for a delicious, low calorie dessert. The plum goes well with other summer stone fruit, such as peaches, nectarines, and apricots.