All About the Java Plum

Java plums are also known as black plums or Malabar plums.

Description of the Fruit

Java plums, or Syzygium cumini, are evergreen tropical trees that are part of the family Myrtaceae, which includes other flowering plants. The fruit is native in the Indian subcontinent along with the adjoining areas of Southeast Asia, Queensland, and China.

Changes to the Fruit Over Time

Indian emigrants have spread the java plum to other regions of the world. It is now fairly common in former British colonies that have tropical climates. The USDA brought it to Florida in 1911, and you can also now find it in certain South American countries. Brazil has some spontaneously dispersed wild java plum. It is an invasive species in Hawaii. The species grows very slowly.

Description of Taste

The java plum tastes mildly sour, sweet, and astringent. After you eat it, it is normal for your tongue to turn purple.

Is It Used in Desserts?

Many types of cakes feature java plum in them, including one with almond meal and cream cheese frosting.

Pop Culture References

The java plum seed is a common part of alternative healing systems, such as Chinese, Unani, and Ayurveda medicine. The fruit contains high levels of vitamin C and vitamin A. The fruit also appeared in “The Useful Native Plants of Australia,” originally published in 1889. The fruit has some religious symbolism in parts of India.

Other Uses

In Brazil, many native birds, including the great kiskadee, tanagers, and thrushes, make use of the java plum and its tree. The wood of the trees is water-resistant, making it useful for installing motors in walls and railway sleepers. Some people also use it to make cheap dwellings or furniture, despite being hard to work with. The leaves are fed to livestock thanks to their nutritional value.