The Greengage (Prunus domestica 'Reine Claude') is an edible drupaceous fruit, a cultivar of the plum. It was developed in France from a green-fruited wild plum (can eriği) originally found in Turkey. It is identified by its small, oval shape, smooth-textured flesh, and ranging in colour from green to yellow, grown in temperate areas. They are known for their rich, confectionery flavour that causes them to be considered one of the finest dessert plums.
History and etymology
Sources attribute the origin of the name "Greengage" variably to several members of the Gage family. One account states that the cultivar was brought into England by the Rev. John Gage who obtained them from the Chartreuse Monastery. "Green Gages" were imported into England from France in 1724 by Sir William Gage, 2nd Baronet (d. 1727), from whom they get their English name. Allegedly, the labels identifying the French plum trees were lost in transit to Gage's home in Bury St. Edmunds. Soon after, Greengages were cultivated in the American colonies, even being grown on the plantations of American presidents George Washington (1732–1799) and Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826). However, their cultivation in North America has declined significantly since the eighteenth century.
The name 'Reine Claude' (French for "Queen Claude"), which is included in its Latin scientific name and also are the name by which they are known in France, is named in honour of Claude (1499–1524), the duchess of Brittany, who became the Queen consort of King Francis I of France (1494–1547). They are also called la bonne reine (French for "the good Queen") in France.
Greengages breed more-or-less true from seed, and several similar cultivars produced from seedlings are now available; some of these include other plum cultivars in their parentage:
- 'Bryanston' (UK)
- 'Cambridge Gage' (UK)
- 'Denniston's Superb' (USA)
- 'Golden Transparent' (UK)
- 'Laxton's Gage' (UK)
- 'Laxton's Supreme' (UK)
- 'Ontario' (Canada)
- 'Reine Claude de Bavay' (Belgium)
- 'Transparent Gage' (France)
- 'Washington' (USA)