Ripe, juicy plums are sweet and delicious. They're a treat to bite into, and they're great for making crisps, pies, jam and even ice cream. I like to use them in plum clafoutis, a breakfast/brunch dish that's part custard, part cake, and part soufflé. It can also double as a dessert.

Any of these dishes are best when the plums are perfectly ripe. Here's how to pick the perfect plum to eat out of your hand or use in any recipe that calls for plums.

Look at the color. Most of the plums sold in grocery stores are a deep red/purple or a lighter red (almost like a Rome apple). You may see more varieties at the farmers market. Whatever the color, make sure the hue is even all around.

Inspect the skin. If there are blemishes, bruises or cuts on the skin, it may have started to rot inside. Also, if the skin is wrinkled, it may have lost its freshness.

Squeeze the blossom end. The blossom end is opposite the stem. It should have a little give it to it but shouldn't be mushy. If it's hard, it's not ripe.

A hard plum will get softer if you put it in a paper bag for a day or two, but it's flavor will not continue to mature. If it was unripe when you got it, it will probably taste unripe even if it's softened.

Feel its weight. A plum should have some weight to it because of its water content. If it feels nice and weighty in your hand, that's a good sign. If it feels light, the water has started to evaporate, and the plum may not be fresh.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

How to spot the perfect plum
From color to firmness, follow these four tips for picking a ripe, juicy plum every time.