A hog plum is both a genus of tree and a name used to describe the fruit that some of the trees bear. The trees are all part of the genus Spondias and are related to the family Anacardiaceae, also known as cashews. They bear a fruit that looks like a pear but is actually a relative of the mango. The hog plum fruit is harvested and eaten, providing a nutritional snack. There are numerous culinary uses for a hog plum, including as a sweet juice.
The genus Spondias has 17 species, although only 10 of these produce the fruits known as hog plums. The trees themselves can grow to more than 75 feet tall (about 25 meters) and are indigenous to the tropical areas of the world, particularly Asia. Some of the trees have been domesticated in certain areas for their fruit, although this practice is not widespread.
The term hog plum is used to describe many of the fruits from the Spondias trees. Some of the fruits also have other names, such as Spanish plums or Java plums, and can be collectively called mombins. The color of the skin can range from red to orange to green, although many of the fruits have a skin color that looks like a mango. The plums with yellow skins are most often used in cooking. The pit inside the fruit is very large and has long spikes on the surface, making it difficult to eat or prepare for cooking.
Hog plums have several beneficial properties. They are very high in fiber and have very few calories. The fruit also is an excellent source of vitamin C and iron, and it can provide some calcium. For these reasons, some people seek out the plums for their nutritional value, squeezing them into a citrus juice.
All throughout the tropics, the hog plum is used in different types of meals. It is most frequently squeezed and turned into a juice that is mixed with sugar. It can be made into chutney or jelly. Pickling the fruit in vinegar provides a plum that is traditionally eaten with salt.
There are some who believe that both the hog plum fruit and the tree have medicinal properties. The leaves can be turned into a tea that causes drowsiness. They also have been studied because they might have the ability to lighten the color of the skin. The roots are said to reduce fever, and the fruit is purported to lower blood sugar. Pregnant women, however, are not advised to eat hog plums, which can cause complications with a pregnancy.