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Plums
 

Plums are stone fruit trees of the genus Prunus, subgenus Prunus. The other fruits belonging to this family include peaches, cherries, bird cherries, etc. There are more than 140 varieties of plums sold in the world market today. It comes in a wide array of shapes and sizes and skin colours. They exist in two absolutely contrasting flavours, both sweet and tart. Some varieties amongst the numerous existing ones are dried to make prunes. Even after drying, they do not loose their sweetness.

As there are a number of varieties of the fruit which are available, it is therefore not strange, that it has different places of origin. It is believed that the European plum was discovered some two thousand years ago, and it originated in the area near the caspian sea. Researchers are of the opinion that

hundreds of varieties of European Plums existed during the Roman times. The Japanese Plums on the other hand originated in China,. USA, Russia, China and Romania are the main commercial producers of plums all over the globe.

 

Varieties of Plums
Plums may be prominently divided into three broad groups namely:

  • European Type: This variety of plums is smaller in size, denser and is less juicy than the other varieties. They usually have a rich blue or purple colour skin and have seeds, which are ferrstone, i.e. they easily separate from the flesh. The flesh is a golden-yellow colour. These type of plums are often made into prunes. Some of the well known varieties under this group include Stanley, Italian, President, Empress,Tragedy, Reine Claude (Green Gage) and the French and German prune (Fellenburg) types. The European-type plums are best for eating fresh and for canning.
  • Japanese Type: These are the non prune or the salicina plums. They are originally from China, but were introduced in Japan some 300 years back. This variety has a yellow or reddish flesh and is extremely juicy. The skin colour ranges from crimson to black-red. They are of the clingstone variety, i.e. the seeds are not easily separable, as it clings to the flesh. Some of the most common cultivars available under this group include Methley, Shiro, Ozark Premier, Burbank and Elephant Heart. These plums are used for their juice and are also used to make jams and thick syrups.
  • Damson Type: This group includes plum varieties, which are tart, and are primarily used for cooking or preserving. Examples of Damson-type plums are Shropshire and French Damson.
 

Nutritional Value
Plums are rich source of a number of vitamins and minerals. They are an excellent source of potassium, and also contain ample amounts of vitamins A, C and E. They not only aid in blood circulation, but also help in combating fluid retention. An average size plum provides approximately 20 calories to the body.

Nutritional Profile of plums is as follows:

  • Vitamin A - 8%
  • Vitamin C - 10%
  • Iron - 2%
  • Carbohydrates - 19g
  • Dietary Fiber - 2 g
  • Sugars - 16 g
  • Protein - 1 g.
 

Selecting Plums
Plump plums having a rich colour and ranging in size fro 3-6 cm are an ideal pick. Apply a little pressure to the fruit, if it yields under gentle pressure, it is ready to eat. The ripe plums are slightly soft at the stem end and at the tip. One can also buy plums, which are a little hard, as these can be ripened at home. But care should be taken, as to not to select rock hard ones. Be careful while selecting and avoid those with a shriveled skin, punctures, breaks in the skin, or any signs of decay.

Storing
The plums, which are not as yet ripe, can be left at room temperature to ripen. But these should be

constantly monitored, as if not checked in a day or two, they are likely to spoil. Once ripe, they can be stored in a refrigerator for a few days. They can be frozen as well, and for that, it is best to remove their seeds (stone pits), before placing them in the freezer.
 

Removing the Skin and Seed
There are various techniques, which may be used for removing the seed and skin of the plums. To remove the skin of the fruit, it is advisable to firsh blanch the plum in boiling water for 30 seconds. Then remove the plum from the water and place it under running cold water. This stops the blanching process, and makes it easier for you to peel the skin off.

To remove the stone from freestone types, first cut the friut into half, twist and pull the halves apart and scoop out the seed. To remove the pit from the clingstone variety, quarter the clingstone variety with a sharp paring knife, and cut through the flesh towards the stone.

Ways of Serving

  • Plum, like any other fruit is best had as it is. If it has been refrigerated, it should be allowed to reach room temperature before consumption, as it is the juicest then
  • Thin plum slices can be put in dry cereal to pep up the taste
  • It can be used in a variety of recipes and can be had either baked or blanched
  • An excellent dessert can be made by poaching plums in a red wine and then serving them with lemon zest
  • Stewed plums can be blended with yogurt and honey to form a wonderful cold soup
  • Place halved, pitted plums in a baking dish and sprinkle them with sugar and spices to taste. Add some fruit juice and cover. It should be cooked until tender
  • Tasty jams and jellies can also be made from this stone fruit
  • Plum juice is also one of the forms in which the fruit can be consumed
  • Sauces made from plums are an ideal accompaniment with pork and other meat dishes.

Health Benefits

  • Plums provide significant Antioxidant protection from phenols
  • They are also responsible for better iron absorption and antioxidant protection from Vitamin C
  • The fruit also provides protection against Macular Degeneration
  • Plums are believed to stimulate the bowel movement, thus aiding in digestion.
 
 


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