Plum fruit

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***** Location: Kenya
***** Season: Hot dry season
***** Category: Plant


In Kenya, plum is a kigo which refers to the fruit -- not the blossom, as it would be in Japan! Plum trees in Kenya grow at high altitude, and the fruit are brought down to Nairobi (itself high at 1,800 m above sea level) in early January and available all over the city, but only for a short and delicious spell of two or three weeks.

During that brief time, they will be found in markets, at roadside stalls, sold by hawkers seated on pavements, or off a wheelbarrow. They could be spread out in tidy pryramids, for sale at a set price, or they could be sold by the heaped Kasuku jar (Kasuku is a popular cooking fat), out of large buckets -- and always a little bonus (called “discount”) thrown in!

Some people immediately munch -- others remember hygiene teaching and take their bag home to wash the fruit first -- and a few resident Europeans, worried about cleanliness, prefer to cook them before eating. Each of these ways are good, and everyone enjoys the plum season.

Kenya plums are round, red and small -- looking to a European rather like oversized cherries -- and have a sweet, but tart flavour. They are so tasty, and much more satisfying than most of the cultivated export varieties of other countries. There is also a yellow variety, which is less common and less flavoursome.

Plums are one of the rare Kenyan fruit which are highly seasonal -- blink twice, and they are gone until next year -- and as they are not expensive, they are popular with both adults and children. Apart from being delicious raw, they can also be stewed, and they make an excellent jam.

Plums for sale at a Nairobi bus stop
Text and photo © Isabelle Prondzynski

Worldwide use


Plum blossoms (ume) Many related kigo
...... Plum blossom fragrance (ume ga ka)

Things found on the way


piled in roadside stalls --
red plums -- soft, shiny and plump,
first of the new year

warm plum jam
licked off the wooden spoon
rounded and red

making plum jam --
two stems and a leaf
well cooked too

Plum jam still cooling
Photo © Isabelle Prondzynski

selling red plums --
baby too bends
up and down

~ Isabelle Prondzynski


red plums in markets
sweet although very tiny
all for good health

~ Winnie Wairimu (Peacock)


two little girls
bending over a wheelbarrow
select plums

~ Catherine Njeri Maina (Bamboocha)


Sabasaba road
hawkers dragging wheelbarrows
plums cost five shillings

~ Loice Wangeci (Peacock)


filled with red and pink
moist plums

(peddlers sell plums on wheelbarrows around the steets)

I spit the seed
of the reddish sweet plum
mmh! yammy!

~ Caleb David Mutua (Peacock)


Plums measured by the Kasuku jar
Photo © Isabelle Prondzynski



It was on Monday morning, when I travelled to Gikomba, on my way back reaching Eastleigh area, I spotted a kiosk full of PLUMS.

You know what, I made a stop over in Eastleigh, because it was something good for a haiku observer like me. Immediately I stepped down,

here they are again
red round fleshy plums
in Eastleigh area

Eastleigh area is a well known habitat for Muslims in Kenya. Keen with my pen and a note book, I walked around, then

in white robes Muslims
stood around a kiosk buying
plums one by one

As the walk continues, kids come,

kids enjoy its flesh
as its juice drips and decorates
their white robes

The walk does not stop there, now a mother,

a happy mother
having a taste first before
giving her order

baby on her back
stretching out his hand to have his
portion of ripe plum

Unfortunately I never had a cent remaining, only the fare from Eastleigh to Umoja, so I never had a taste, but they are here I'll soon have.

~ Raymond Otieno, 14 December 2006


cool evening --
a student quietly
sucking plums

Elkana Mogaka

dusty sunset --
the hawker's wheelbarrow
still full of red plums

Patrick Wafula

More PLUM HAIKU from January 2008

Related words

***** Peach (ripe at the same time in Kenya)

Please send your contributions to
Gabi Greve / Isabelle Prondzynski
worldkigo .....

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