Very few fruits can compete with the panorama of colors that the plum fruit exhibits. At time known as Gage, this fruit comes from the stone fruit tree that belongs to the Genus Prunus and is closely related to fruits like peaches, almonds, and cherries, plums. Each of these fruits, collectively called as drupes, is characterized by a hard stone pit surrounding their seeds.
Ripe plums are distinctively sweet, highly juicy, and deep red to dark pink in color. The mature plum fruits have a dusty-white coating called as wax bloom, which can be easily dusted off the fruit. Dried form of this fruit is known as prunes. Though these fruits are best eaten raw, they may also be used in preparing jams, jellies, preserves, and several other plum dishes. Some popular recipes made from this fruit include juice, wine, tarts, and pies.
History and Culinary Significance of Plum Recipes
Several different varieties of plum fruits are available around the world, with each variety having a different heritage and place of origin. The European variety is supposed to have been first cultivated at a place near Caspian Sea more than 2000 yrs ago. According to certain records, Plum dishes were quite popular during the ancient Roman period. The European variety was introduced to USA during the 17th century by the pilgrims entering the New World.
In contrast, the other popular plum variety - Japanese plums originated in China. They are called Japanese because that’s the country where much of the plum recipe developments occurred. The Japanese variety entered the American market not until late 19th century.
Today, the United States, Russia, China, and Romania are among the major producers of commercially grown plum fruits.
Culinary Uses of Gage
Apart from eating fresh, the ideal blend of sugar, acid, and pectin, makes Plum an ideal candidate for jam & jelly making and other such plum recipe. Fermented of its fruit produces wine, which may be further distilled to make brandies like Palinka, Rakia, and Slivovitz. Prunes – the dried form of this fruit is used in a variety of plum dishes like pies, pastries, cakes, etc. Salted dried plums are at times used as a snack in certain parts of the world. Spiced prunes are used to flavor drinks, shaved ice, and baobing (a Chinese delicacy).
In Asian cuisine, Umebushi, a Japanese plum variety is often used for flavoring Japanese rice balls called as Onigiri. These may also be used to make plum dishes like pickles and preserves.
Popular Plum Dishes from Around the World
Plum is one of the few fruits that are used in almost all cuisines of the world. Here are some popular plum recipe varieties from around the world:
Italian: Syrups, Compotes, Breakfast Focaccia, and Fresh Coffee Cakes made using plum are quite popular
European: Plum dishes like Soups, Glazed Lamb Roast, Crumble, and Streusel Cake made using the fruit are quite common. Other than these, plum recipe selections for beverages like Slivovitz, Rakia, Ţuică and Pálinka pretty popular.
Asian: Shiu Hau Jeung (Plum and Barbeque Sauce), Gingered Plum Sauce, Peum Sauce, Gar Doo Gai, and Onigiri.
Common Methods of Preparing Plum Dishes
Plum like other drupes is best eaten as is. These fruits taste best when eaten at room temperature. If refrigerated, allow the fruits to reach the room temperature – this will enhance the juiciness of the fruits. Plums can also be prepared into several plum dishes using a variety of raw and cooked plums. To remove the pit, cut the fruit lengthwise, and gently twist the two halves in opposite directions, the flesh will easily separate out from the pit. Blanching the fruits for 30 secondss followed by a dip in cold water helps in peeling the skin. This fruit, thus prepared, can be dried, pureed, juiced, or boiled depending upon the plum recipe being used.
Nutritive Value of Plums
Fresh plum is supposed to be more nutrient rich than cooked plum dishes. The fruit in its fresh form is a rich source of Vitamins A and C, and minerals like potassium, calcium, phosphorus, etc. Both fresh and dried varieties of the fruit are a good source of dietary fiber, sorbitol, and isatin, which makes them a perfect natural cure for constipation.
Tips for Buying Plums
Plum season starts from May and lasts up to early fall. While purchasing these fruits fresh, go for the ones that are slightly soft, yield to pressure, and have a slight whitish bloom (the bloom reflects that the fruits have not been over-handled). Though, you can buy slightly firm ones and ripen them at home, avoid selecting excessively hard fruits, for a hard texture indicates that the fruits are immature and will probably never develop the right taste and juiciness. Generally, fruits with a deeper color are supposed to be juicier and sweeter. Also, avoid fruits with bruises and other visible signs of decay.
Tips for Storing Plums
Slightly raw plum can be ripened by storing them at room temperature. However, a fully ripened fruits must either be used immediately or stored in a refrigerator. Plum stays good for up to 3 or 4 days in a fridge. Once frozen, these fruits can last for up to 6 months or 1 year depending up on the freezing technique used. However, frozen fruits are better used in preparing cooked plum recipe rather than eaten raw.
Prune refers to dried plum fruits. Though two come from the same fruit, prunes are considered to have better nutritional value and medicinal properties as compared to the fresh ones. However, due to the association of prunes as a medication for constipation, many prune manufacturers prefer to use the term dried plum instead.
In Ayurveda, powder of plum tree bark is used to relieve diarrhea and sore throat.
Plum blossoms, called as Mie in China, are designated as the Chinese National flowers.