How Long Do Plums Last and How to Tell if They’re Bad?

Here’s everything you need to know about the shelf life and spoilage of plums. Learn how long plums last, how to tell if they’re bad, and whether you need to refrigerate them or not.

Bought a bunch of fresh, locally grown plums and wondering how long they are good for?

Or maybe yours are a bit soft, and you need to know how to tell if plums are bad?

If you need a quick brush-up on ripening, storage, shelf life, and spoilage of plums, you’re in the right place.

For starters, you need to know whether your plums are ripe or not. Let’s cover that.

Plums in hand
Plums in hand

Table of Contents

How To Tell If a Plum Is Ripe?

To learn if a plum is ripe, you need to consider its firmness, color, and smell.

Ripe plums give slightly under gentle pressure, especially near the tip. They also give off their signature plum smell and have their characteristic color developed. If you’re not sure about the color or smell, make sure the plum is slightly tender.

Checking firmness is the easiest of the three. All you need to do is gently squeeze the fruit and see if it has some give. If it does, you can be pretty sure it’s ripe.

You do the same with many other fruits, including mangoes (here’s how to store mangoes), apricots, avocados (here’s how to tell if an avocado is bad), and the like.

Examining the smell is somewhat tricky, because it’s best to know what do plums smell like. Plus, some varieties are more fragrant than others. In general, plums should smell somewhat sweet, but that’s about the best description I can come up with.

Color is the last piece of the puzzle. Blue plums go from green to greenish-blue, then to dark blue. Purple plums go through a similar transition but end up purple instead of blue.

Again, if you’re not sure what you’re dealing with, stick with checking the firmness, and you’re going to be fine.

Two kinds of plums
Two kinds of plums

How Long Do Plums Last?

PantryFridge
Unripe plums2 to 3 days, until ripe
Ripe plums2 – 3 days3 – 5 days

Unripe plums usually need 1 to 2 days on the counter to ripen. Once ripe, plums keep for another 2 to 3 days at room temperature, or you can refrigerate them for 3 to 5 days, maybe even a week. If you need more time, you can freeze plums after pitting them.

Ripening plums typically takes 1 to 2 days, but if yours are still super firm after those two days, give them a bit more time. You can also speed up the ripening process, which I cover in the storage section.

Of course, all of those periods are only rough estimates.

If you buy somewhat soft plums on a sale, they’ll probably retain decent quality for only a day or so. And it’s best to use those as soon as possible. Likewise, plums that are refrigerated at the peak of their freshness might keep for 7 to 10 days.

Last, if you leave ripe plums at room temperature, they deteriorate quickly and soften within a day or so. The same is true for other stone fruits, such as cherries (here’s how long cherries last) or peaches (How long do peaches last?).

Old plum starting to soften
Old plum starting to soften from the stem

How To Tell If Plums Are Bad?

When checking plums for spoilage, make sure you:

  • Look for any visual signs of deterioration. Those include mold (especially near the stem) and browning or darkening flesh.
  • Check the firmness of the fruit. If the plums are super soft, mushy, shriveled, or even oozing juice, it’s time for them to go.
  • Check for worms or larvae inside. Make sure always to halve the plum and remove the pit before eating. This way, you make sure the insides are free of any insects. Eating the whole thing and spitting out the pit is never a good idea when it comes to plums.
Plum starting to rot
Plum starting to rot

What if you have a bunch of plums that are starting to soften but are still good enough to use?

You could freeze those, of course, but that only postpones the problem and adds yet another thing to your to-do list. Instead, I suggest using those soft plums in cooking or baking. Some examples include plum jam, plum pie, and plum muffins. Or you can grab your favorite baking recipe and find a way to incorporate those plums.

How To Store Plums

Store unripe plums on the counter until they ripen. Once ripe, you can leave plums at room temperature for 2 to 3 days or refrigerate them for 3 to 5 days. You can freeze them or make plum jam to store them for even longer.

When storing plums, remember to:

  • Wash them only before using or eating. If you need or want to wash the plums before storage, dry them thoroughly using paper towels.
  • Keep them away from stinky foods. Like many fruits and veggies, plums absorb odors, so make sure they sit away from smelly products.
  • Don’t stack them too high. Plums aren’t as fragile as strawberries or even cherries, but that doesn’t mean they’ll withstand a lot of weight on top of them.

Now, let’s talk about the differences between storing unripe and ripe plums.

Opened plums
Opened plums

Unripe Plums

Unripe plums should sit at room temperature until ripe. Leave them on the countertop (but not in direct sunlight) or in the pantry, and let them ripen. Give them a quick check once a day to learn whether they’re ripe or not.

If you want to speed up the ripening process, put the plums in a paper bag. That will trap the ethylene they produce and make the fruits ripen faster.

To further accelerate ripening, you can add an apple or a ripening banana to that bag.

The same works when you’re ripening apricots.

Ripe Plums

You can leave ripe plums at ambient temperature or refrigerate them.

If you want to store them at room temperature, place the plums in a cool, dry, and dark place away from heat sources. Put them in a ventilated bag or container, and make sure they sit away from ethylene-producing fruits and veggies such as apples, pears, bananas, tomatoes, and so on.

When refrigerating plums, put them in a plastic bag. You can place that bag in the crisper drawer or on a fridge shelf.

The same storage guidelines apply to other stone fruit, nectarines (How to store nectarines?) for instance.

Plum closeup
Opened plum closeup

Do Plums Need to Be Refrigerated?

No, but storing ripe plums in the fridge is highly recommended. Plums left on the counter at room temperature keep for only 2 to 3 days. On the contrary, plums that sit in the fridge last up to a week.

Under-ripe plums shouldn’t be refrigerated.

Plums Shelf Life and Spoilage Summary

Thank you for reading this short guide on plums. Let’s recap what we’ve covered above:

  • How long do plums last? Unripe plums need 1 to 2 days at room temperature to ripen. Once ripe, they last 2 to 3 days on the counter and 3 to 5 days refrigerated. To preserve them for longer, you can freeze them or make plum jam.
  • How to tell if a plum is bad? Throw out plums that are mushy, seeping, or moldy. And always open them up before eating to check for worms, larvae, and if the flesh isn’t already browning.
  • How to store plums? Place unripe plums on the counter and away from sunlight until they ripen. Once ripe, you can leave them on the same counter for 2 to 3 days or refrigerate them in a plastic bag for 3 to 5 days.
Plums on a plate
Plums on a plate