Unripe plums are transformed into crunchy, moreish salty-sour-spicy delights! Pickled green plums are a seasonal treat in Israel & across the Middle East.
About a week ago I was in town and needed to buy some fruit and veg. I nipped into the nearest grocers, which happened to be one of Cambridge’s fabulous Middle Eastern shops. But when I got to the till, my purchases didn’t quite come to £5, which was the minimum for a credit card purchase. So, I quickly looked around and grabbed what I thought was a punnet of greengages, to make up the difference.
Sour green plums
Once home, I realised my mistake. These weren’t greengages, they were small, unripe, sour green plums! Picked early, before they have time to mature and develop, these fruits are a seasonal treat across the Middle East.
They are usually eaten raw, dipped into salt, or else pickled. I tried one raw, but to my untrained palate it was much too sour! I consulted an Israeli friend, and she encouraged me to have a go at pickling, instead.
There are numerous ways to pickle green plums, and a quick google search revealed regional variations from Turkey, Lebanon, Iran, Morocco and more*. In the end, I settled on this simple recipe from Creative Jewish Mom, which is based on one from her husband’s Moroccan family. I didn’t fancy the chilis though, and was going to use an unflavoured brine. But at the last minute I threw in some coriander seeds and star anise. You know I can never leave anything plain, right?!
Simple, beautiful, pickled plums
These pickled green plums were so simple to make, and they looked amazing. The plums are so very fresh and green and vibrant! I can see why these are seen as a herald of Spring.
After a week, I tentatively opened the jar and tried a pickled plum…
And it was delicious! Seriously good. I could probably have munched down half the jar, but I managed to control myself so that I could take some photos!
As you can see, the once-green plums changed colour somewhat, losing their bright green hue and becoming a mellow brownish yellow. They have also lost their overpowering sourness, taking on a wonderful sour-salt-spicy flavour while retaining their fabulous crunch.
When to eat pickled green plums
I think these pickled green plums will be great with cheeses or humous, as part of a picnic or mezze platter. They will also be terrific as the garnish in a dry martini, or anywhere you might serve olives or capers.
Or you can just chomp them straight from the jar!
I don’t know how long the sour green plum season lasts, so look out for them now in your local Middle Eastern shops.
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Pickled sour green plums
- 200-250 g unripe sour green plums
- 1½ tablespoon coarse salt
- 1 star anise
- ½ teaspoon coriander seeds
- Boiled water
- Wash the plums. Using a sharp knife score a line around each plum.
- Sterilise a medium jar with boiling water. Pack the prepared plums into the jar.
- Add the salt, star anise and coriander seeds to the jar, then poured boiled (but slightly cooled) water to fill the jar. Screw the lid on tightly.
- Allow the water to cool completely, then put the jar in the fridge and allow to pickle for at least a week.
- Eat and enjoy!
More delicious Middle Eastern recipes
If you love Middle Eastern food, why not try:
- Authentic fluffy pita bread
- Mejadra – Middle Eastern rice and lentils
- Tabbouleh salad with freekeh
- Iraqi tebit-style rice (vegan)
*These sour plums are known as shazifim yerakim in Israel, gojeh sabz in Iran, jarareng in Lebanon, erik in Turkey, and janarek in Jordan.
If you’re wondering what I did with the remaining plums in the punnet, I cooked them up with some sugar to make a green plum compote. It wasn’t bad, but the pickled green plums were better!