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Quince »« Pineapple

Plums

Prunus domestica


Description

A plum tree in the summer afternoon sun, dripping with bright red fruit, is a favourite sight for summer fruit lovers.

Plums are a stone fruit, closely related to the peach, nectarine, and apricot. When dried, they become prunes.

There’s a dizzying variety of plums, and what you’ll find in the supermarket depends on the point in the season you’re at. Broadly speaking, plums are divided into Japanese and European varieties. Japanese plums, which include the ever-popular Black Doris, do better in slightly warmer areas as they’re not very frost-tolerant, and the fruit tends to be very juicy, making them excellent for eating and preserving. European plums, on the other hand, like a good winter chill so are good in colder parts of the country. They often, but not always, have golden flesh beneath purple skin, and are usually not as juicy as many Japanese varieties, so are often used for preserving and drying.

Plums are a good way to get your vitamin C, as well as vitamins A and B2. They also contain a good amount of fibre and potassium.

When buying plums, look for ripe ones that give slightly to gentle pressure. Good ones will have a vibrant colour and be covered in a white bloom like that on blueberries, indicating they’re fresh and haven’t been handled too much. You can buy slightly harder plums if you don’t want to use them immediately, but if they’re rock-hard they won’t ripen properly as they haven’t spent enough time on the tree. Store them in the fridge for a couple of days, but bring them up to room temperature before eating.

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History

The Japanese plum varieties actually originate in China, but the Japanese were largely responsible for their cultivation.

The European plum originates from western Asia and the Caucasus, the area around Georgia and Armenia. They were probably first naturalised in Ancient Greece and introduced to countries across the temperate zone; the Roman natural historian Pliny described cultivated plums from Syria coming to Italy via Greece.

The Romans were probably responsible for spreading plums throughout Britain and northern Europe. Early settlers would have brought them to New Zealand, with the small European greengage variety being popular for preserving.

Uses

Apart from being delicious eaten fresh, plums are excellent in baking, and work well in tarts, crumbles, and muffins. The skin can be sour, so you might want to remove it before using the plums: just immerse the fruit in boiling water for 30 seconds, transfer them to a bowl of very cold water to refresh them, and you’ll be able to slip the skins off. To stone the plum, just cut in half along the natural groove, twist the halves open and pop the stone out.

Plums go very well with goats’ cheese and feta; try adding plums into a salad. And though prunes sometimes have unpalatable associations, their utility extends far beyond being a remedy for bowel problems. Use them to make Devils on Horseback, one of the tastiest canapés you’ll find. Just wrap streaky bacon around a pitted prune and bake until the bacon’s crispy.

Facts

In Hungary, they make a very potent brandy out of plums.



Quince »« Pineapple

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