The Karadzeyka plum is a local plum variety (Prunus domestica L.), traditional for the Gabrovski Balkan area (in the central Stara Planina Mountain area), and nearby mountain villages in municipalities of Sevlievo, Gabrovo, Dryanovo and Tryavna. Plum growing is a traditional practice for the whole region. Karadzeyka plums are propagated by grafting onto a rootstock of another local plum variety, the Majarkini. Grafting is performed in early spring or in late summer by so-called “bud grafting.” Initially the variety was propagated by seeds, but in the last 50 years has been done only by grafting.
Trees range from 3 to 8 meters tall. Flowers are white, blooming early in March or April and are used by bees in making honey. Karadzeyki plums have relatively small fruits compared to other plum varieties that are roundish and glossy, and containing a hard pit that does not separate easily from the fruit flesh. Fruits measures are about 3-4 cm long by 2-3 cm wide, with an average weight of 7.5 grams. Even green fruits are sweet in flavor. The Karadzeyka variety has two forms: summer and winter. The latter has delightful taste and ripens in late August or early September. The fruit flesh is golden-yellow, juicy, very sweet, nicely sour and full-flavored. Fruits are hardy and transportable. Their high sugar content allows for production of jams and pestil (a local dried fruit leather) without any additional sweeteners. Fruits can also be consumed fresh or used for the production of slivova rakiya/сливова ракия, a plum brandy.
The Karadzeyka name is probably related to the name of the local wholesale traders before the 18th century, kardzei, who sold and traded in products from the region with goods from other areas. Until the late 1900s, plum growing and processing was important to the region, and the Plum Growing Research Institute (now called the Research Institute of Mountain Stockbreeding and Agriculture, Troyan) was established. Many new and large-fruited varieties were selected, leaving the Karadzeyka plums to be considered less desirable, especially for dried prune and canning production. Until the 1980s and 1990s, the variety was frequently used as part of pestil production.
Today, local people note that the variety could be found only in higher altitude and colder places. Individual trees can be seen in abandoned gardens and orchards. Some of the old trees are diseased, and rarely bear a small number of fruits. Climate change and a warming climate is a possible reason for the trees’ worsening condition. Furthermore, home production of pestil is dying out, and so there is no great demand for these plums for its production. In the Gergini village, the local community center has developed a project for the revival of local plum varieties in home gardens and yards, but the process is difficult with the spread of new varieties everywhere.