The Prunus genus, of which plums belong, have so many closely-related species that it’s difficult to tell where a plum fruit ends and a cherry fruit begins. The inter-relatedness of these species makes it easy for farmers to experiment with crafting unique hybrids, like the pluot and plumcot.
Origin of Plum
Plums have an extensive history—though ancient plum varieties have been linked to Damascus, it’s believed that the Chinese were first to cultivate plums circa 470 BC. In fact, Confucius eloquently wrote of them in his Aspen-plum poem. To this day, the Chinese consider the fruits to symbolize good fortune.
Several regions have cultivated their own distinct, popular variety: Europe is home to the European plum (Prunus domestica), America bred the American plum (Prunus Americana), South Asia first cultivated the cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera), and Western Asia has the Damson plum (Prunus salicina). Each of these regional varieties have since spread to countries across the world.
Like its close relative, the peach, it’s likely that plums came to India from China.
Availability of Plum in India
Plums are a rare fruit in India, in part because plums conflict with conditions required for apples. The primary producers of plum are Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir. The Nilgiri hills in the south also grow plums on a limited scale.
Though India is not known for its temperate fruit production, the country grows approximately 12 varieties from the Prunus salicina species. Plum season ranges from late April through June.
Where to find Plum in India
India-grown plums do not make their way to the south at any point in the season, with exception of the fruits those grown in the Nilgiri hills. As explained by one grower in a 2011 “The Times of India” article, commission agents add such a high price for shipping to Delhi that little profit remains for the farmer.
However, the southern metro cities import fresh plums and plum-related products—such as prunes, plum sauce, etc—from California, South Africa and Thailand. Like all imported fruits, these command a hefty price tag, costing roughly $6.00 per lb (300rs/kg) in 2012.
Residents in plum-growing regions are regaled by a variety of fruits rolling in and out of the season, usually sold by vendors spreading delicate purple or yellow plums on their blankets. Grab them if available: tomorrow, one’s favorite plum vendor may disappear; or larger, darker types may replace those succulent mauve fruits found the day before.
While fresh plums may be sporadic and hard to find in every region of India, bags of California prunes and Asian plum sauces remain on supermarket shelves year-round.
Checking for Ripeness in Plum
Unripe plums have tight, shiny skin, and are light green in color. The yellow varieties are pale white and green.
As plums ripen, the skin becomes less taught, slightly thicker, and the fruit becomes pliable when pressed. A good plum feels heavy for its size, and free of bruises and large dark spots. Also beware of soft spots and deterioration as noticed by wrinkled skin.
The flesh of a ripe plum is juicy, sweet, and somewhat watery. When the plum over ripens, the bright taste subsides to a more insipid flavor and the texture grows granular and mushy.
Taste of Plum
Plum flesh has a sweet, vibrant flavor offset by piquant, moody, sour and astringent skin. Indeed, if you were to peel a plum, the taste would bear no resemblance to one consumed with the skin intact. Plums share this characteristic with other deep purple fruits like jamun and grape.
Nutritional Value of Plum
According to the USDA nutrient database, plums offer the following nutritional information per 100g:
11.4g Carbs (4% RDI)
1.4g Fiber (6% RDI)
.3g Fat (neg)
.7g Protein (1% RDI)
345IU Vitamin A (7% RDI)
9.5mg Vitamin C (16% RDI)
.3mg Vitamin E (1% RDI)
6.4mcg Vitamin K (8% RDI)
Thiamin (2% RDI)
Riboflavin (2% RDI)
Niacin (2% RDI)
7mg Magnesium (2% RDI)
16mg Phosphorous (2% RDI)
157mg Potassium (4% RDI)
.1mg Copper (3% RDI)
.1mg Manganese (3% RDI)
Health Benefits of Plum:
Plums offer several health benefits, including being one of the few fruits high in Vitamin K, responsible for strong bones and proper blood clotting. The phenols in the deep purple prune’s skin provide antioxidant benefits, thereby protecting the fats that enable the brain to function and good cholesterol circulation throughout the body.
--According to Professor Bahram Arjmandi at Florida State University, prunes (or, dried plums) have the potential to reverse bone loss for post-menopausal women.
--Prunes are also a well-known diuretic, outperforming psyllium husk in a 2011 trial conducted by scientists at the University of Iowa.
--A 2010 study published in the Pakistan Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences found that prune consumption might be beneficial for patients suffering from hepatic diseases based on its ability to improve liver health.
--The Journal of Ayub Medical College published findings revealing cardiovascular protective health of prunes.
--A study published in Eating Behaviors conducted at the Agricultural University of Athens found that subjects who ate prunes as a snack had greater satiety and were less inclined to eat dessert. Those who ate prunes before a meal consumed fewer calories total, thus proving this fruit as an effective weight loss snack.
How to Open/Cut:
Plums can be consumed like peaches: out of hand while minding the stone residing in the center. Plums can also be de-pitted quickly by slicing around the pit, separating the halves, and then removing the stone. Here’s a video illustrating this:
Plums continue to ripen once plucked from the tree. The fruit tends not to grow sweeter, but will grow softer. If ripening is required, leave at room temperature, or place in a paper bag to hasten the process. In warm and humid conditions, plums may last for a week or two. Refrigeration also prolongs the life of plums.
It’s possible to freeze plums by blanching them, removing the skin, coating the slices in lemon juice, and then combining the slices in a bowl of fruit juice syrup (ie, a concoction of boiled water and sugar). Place the contents in a thick plastic zip bag and store in the freezer.
Note: instructions for freezing peaches may also be followed for freezing plums.
Plum Recipe Ideas and Uses:
Plums (and prunes) add exceptional sweetness and vibrancy to a variety of dishes:
--Stew prunes or plums in sweet, syrupy alcohols like brandy and port for a robust dessert.
--Make plum sauce by heating oil, garlic, and ginger in a saucepan. Then add de-seeded, finely chopped plums, along with water, lemon juice, pepper, salt, and brown sugar or jaggery. Simmer until the plums are soft. Puree, and then add soy sauce, a dash of peanut oil, and chili. Serve with vegetables or tofu. Or, use as a spring roll dipping sauce.
--Add prunes to cookies, as they pair especially well with oatmeal and chocolate
--Thoroughly masticate prunes and place atop cheesecakes, or as a glaze for muffins and sweet breads.
--Substitute prunes for a cheaper alternative in recipes calling for dried cherries
--Add prunes in oatmeal, trailmix and mueslis
--Use chopped prunes in savory rice dishes or ones calling for quinoa or bulgar wheat
--Make chutneys and jams from fresh plums
--Create a plum tart by adding fresh slices to a standard recipe
--Grill and glaze plums to serve alongside grilled tofu and faux meat dishes.
|Vegan plum tart tartin by|
Apricot, apple, cherry, peach, pear, blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, fig, quince
Herbs, spices, and oil: chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, port, brandy, bourbon, almond, pecan, walnut, cream, cheese, liqueur, jaggery or brown sugar, raisins, teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, white wine vinegar, garlic, ginger, chili powder
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration authorized California to call prunes, “dried plums” instead: the reason was because surveys showed Americans were more willing to eat “dried plums” than “prunes.”
Cherry, apricot, peach, nectarine, almond