Friday, July 31, 2015

Plums 101

The plum tree is a deciduous tree belonging to the rose family (Rosacea) and the plum fruit is from the Genus Prunus which includes almonds, apricots, cherries, and peaches. Being a diverse group of species this medium sized fruit can range from 1 to 3 inches in diameter. The fruit itself is firm and juicy. The fruits peel is smooth with a natural waxy surface that coats the flesh. The plum is a stone fruit or drupe where the outer fleshy part of the fruit surrounds the shell (or pit, stone or pyrene). The taste of a plum ranges from sweet to tart but the skin tends to be tart. Plums do not sweeten after being picked but they will soften. When plums are dried they become a prune. Over 2,000 varieties of plums exist and over 100 are available in the United States. There are six general categories which include Japanese (which originated in China), American, Damson, Ornamental, Wild and European/Garden. Plums come in a wide variety of colors and sizes. The skins range in color from red, purple, blue-black, green, yellow or amber with flesh that can be yellow, white, green, orange, pink or red. For more information about different plum varietals go here and to this page by Cooking Light. Plum season is typically May to October. Top plum producers in 2013 included China, Serbia, Romania, Chile followed by Turkey.

Plums may have been one of the first fruits domesticated by humans and the remains have been found in Neolithic age archeological sites along with olives, grapes and figs. Here are some interesting facts from the folks at Michigan Plum Growers. Plums have a rich heritage in many cultures. Pflaumenkuchen (Pflaumen=plums, kuchen=cake), or shortened form Plumkuchen is a longtime traditional dessert in German-Jewish families. Plum dessert is a traditional part of the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah. Tzimmes is a traditional Jewish sweet stew with vegetables and dried plums. Prunes are a frequent ingredient in North African and Norwegian cuisine. Plum filling is popular in Danish pastries in the U.S. and elsewhere. The terms “Christmas pudding” and “plum pudding” were often considered to be the same in Victorian times, although Christmas puddings were often made with raisins or dried currants, and not plums. A true plum pudding contains plums. Sugar plums candy also generally contained raisins or currents and not plums, and of various colors, but were shaped to look like a plum with a wire to serve as the stem for hanging on a Christmas tree. If you want to take a stab at making your own sugar plums here is Alton Browns version. For more interesting facts about plums check out this page.

Plums are recommended for first time gardeners. If you want to learn more about planting your own plum tree read this interesting article by Farmers Almanac. For more information about plums go here.

To Store

Store plums at room temperature but check them frequently as they are highly perishable. A ripe plum will yield when pressed gently. You can speed up the ripening process by storing plums in a paper bag at room temperature and away from the sunlight. Ripe plums can be store in the crisper drawer to prolong their eating life, about 3 to 5 days. According to Fresh Direct, stone fruit takes well to freezing. First, peel the fruit: drop into boiling water for 30 seconds, plunge into cool water, then remove the skins. Slice open and remove the pits, which can impart bitterness to the fruit during freezing. Place in an airtight container and they will last for up to a year. Rolling stone fruit in sugar before freezing helps to preserve the shape. Here are some other ideas about storing plums from

To Nourish

Prunes are high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Copper, Fiber and Potassium. Among the health benefits is significant antioxidant protection from phenols, improved Iron absorption and additional antioxidant protection from Vitamin C. Plums normalize blood sugar levels and assist with weight loss. Fiber in both plums and prunes lends itself to regularity, lower cholesterol and intestinal protection. For more information about the health benefits of plums go here.

To Prepare

Plums can be eaten raw, added to salads or as an accompaniment to a cheese platter. They can be made into drinks and sauces. Preserved by pickling or made into chutney or jams. They are wonderful grilled and cooked (dried or fresh) as they work well with most proteins. And of course baked in desserts plums are a winner.

The best way to cut your plums in preparation for eating and cooking, use a sharp knife, cut in half following the line of the dimple, then gently grip each half and twist apart. Pull out the stone/pit or ease out with the tip of the knife, then chop or slice the flesh. The skin is edible, but if you want to eat them raw but skinned, drop them into into boiling water for around 15 or so seconds, then plunge them immediately into cold water. The skin should come away easily. Alternatively, if you're cooking them, skin them afterwards. Here are 15 creative ways to prepare your plums from and 10 things to do when you have too many plums from

To Try

A must-have for anyone who is passionate about baking, these Gobel Tinned Steel Tart Pans have removable bottoms for easy release. Various sizes available. Made in France. (Sur-la-Table, $10-14)