Choose plums with a pleasant smell. It's common for plums to develop a yeast growth on the surface, like grapes. Plums will soften if left around, but will not gain a nice ripe taste and smell, like other fruits. They benefit more than most fruits from being picked when absolutely ripe, but before the wasps get them, and plums sold in supermarkets tend to have been picked too early, which means they suffer less damage in transit, but never develop the full taste and fragrance.
Dried plums are called prunes.
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Plums are a typical summer fruit. Early-season varieties will start halfway through May (in the northern hemisphere), whereas later season varieties will be harvested until the third week of August. Some late varieties keep well enough to last until late November.