Fruit Facts: Plums

Healthy Recipes and Nutrition,Nutrition
November 14, 2011

How to find the perfect plum, and why you should eat it.

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The plum is part of the rose, or rosaceae, family, like the peach and the apricot. Most plums grown in the United States are hybrids from the Japanese plum. The Fruit and Veggie Guru reports that John Kelsey introduced the Japanese plum in California in the 1870s. Its hybridization came about twenty years later. Today, almost all U.S.-grown plums are grown in California.

Good stuff. Plums are a low-calorie snack. One plum, weighing about 66 grams or a little more than two ounces, has only 30 calories. It boasts vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, beta carotene and 104 milligrams of potassium. The plum also contains lutein, an antioxidant that may help promote skin and eye health. Vitamin A is good for skin health as well, while beta carotene may be helpful for increasing cognition and memory, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Picking perfect plums. When picking your plums, engage your senses. Begin by looking for plums that are vibrant in color. There are several varieties and colors will vary, but a ripe plum will have a rich color and not contain any brown spots or other discolorations. It should also be free of wrinkles or scars. Smell the fruit. It should smell slightly sweet when ripe. Touch the plums to feel for a slight firmness. A ripe plum will not feel squishy. It will be gently firm and yield a bit to your touch.

Storing plums. If you buy plums that are almost but not quite ripe and ready to eat, don't store them in the refrigerator, as that will slow down the ripening process. When purchasing semi-ripe plums, place the fruit in a brown paper bag for one or two days. Check the fruit after 24 hours to ensure it doesn't become overripe, which will result in mushy, over-sweet fruit.

A versatile fruit. The plum is a versatile fruit. Eat it raw as a snack or try it diced in fruit salads. Blend skinned and chopped plums with low-fat yogurt, strawberries and bananas for a fruit-filled smoothie. You can also stew plums or bake them into desserts such as pie and cakes. To freeze fresh plums, wash and slice the fruit before arranging on a baking sheet. Place in the freezer until the slices are frozen, and then transfer to a freezer bag.

Prunes and plumcots. According to GrownInCalifornia.com, certain varieties of plums can be dried easily, transforming the plum into a prune. Prunes are often juiced. A prune puree or paste can be used as a filling in pastries such as kolachky and in various cookie recipes. The prune is a good source of vitamin A, fiber and iron. The plumcot is a cross between a plum and an apricot. Its skin can range in colors, and there are several varieties.