Native to Natal, South Africa, the natal plum is a vigorous, woody shrub that can reach heights of 18 feet. Armed with double-pronged thorns up to 2 inches long, it produces sweetly fragrant white flowers and round, oval or oblong fruit. The fruit is green and rich in sticky latex until it ripens, when it turns to a bright magenta coated with a thin, whiteish bloom, then finally to a dark crimson.
Ideal for protective thorny hedges, the natal plum flowers all year, but sparingly in winter. You can see them almost anywhere in Bermuda, specifically coastal tree-less areas, parks, and around houses, often used under windows as a burglar deterrent. There is a marvellous stretch of them just past the parking area at Ferry Reach Park; patches of them punctuate Harbour Road, and a thick mass overlooks the farm at Astwood Park.
Here are some ways to enjoy the natal plum:
- Eat fresh or make into pies, jams, jellies, and sauces.
- Use in desserts, yogurt, or ice cream.
- Fold chopped natal plums into sweet bread recipes.
- Make a pie filling by adding 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water with 2 pints of sliced natal plums. Place pie pastry on top and bake.
- Add diced natal plums to salads with apple, raisin, vegan cheese, and a dark green like spinach.
- Make a preserve by steaming natal plums. Alongside this process, mix sugar and water at high heat. Transfer the steamed, softened plums to the concoction and cook until the thick consistency resembles the texture of apple butter. Note: slightly unripe fruits are best for preserving.
- Make pickled plums by boiling the fruit, removing them, and then adding flavors like zesty masala, lemon juice, and oil.
- The dark juice makes for a nice coloring to beverages and soups, and adds a pinch of sweetness, too.
- Overripe fruits may be processed into vinegar.