The plum is noted for its versatility. This fruit tastes great alone, cut up in cereals and yogurt, or cooked to make compote or syrupy sauces for healthy dessert dishes. The plum will keep your diet from ever being boring.
There are more than 200 varieties of plums in the United States alone, some quite different than others. It pays to be adventurous and explore unfamiliar plums; you'll find a few new favorites in no time.
If you eat a couple of plums at a time, you'll get more than a fair dose of vitamins A and C, the B vitamin riboflavin, potassium, and fiber. These nutrients will help protect your cells, keep your heart healthy, and boost immunity. Plums contain phenols, a type of phytonutrient. Phenols are strong antioxidants. The type in plums is particularly good at protecting the fats in our cell membranes and brain, as well the fats circulating in our bloodstream.
Selection and Storage
Plums are a summer pitted fruit, called a drupe, with a long season, May through October. Some plums cling to their pits and some have "free" stones (pits).
Plums are generally either Japanese or European in origin. The Japanese types are usually superior for eating. Many European types are used for stewing, canning, or preserves or for turning into prunes by drying.
Plum skins come in a rainbow of colors: red, purple, black, green, blue, and even yellow. Plum flesh is surprisingly colorful, too. It can be yellow, orange, green, or red.
There's no room here to chronicle the characteristics of every type of plum, but here are a few eating plums you're likely to encounter: Santa Rosa, Friar, Red Beauty, El Dorado, Greengage, and Kelsey.
When choosing plums, look for plump fruit with a bright or deep color covered with a powdery "bloom," which is its natural protection. If it yields to gentle palm pressure, it's ripe. If not, as long as it isn't rock hard, it will ripen at home. But it won't get sweeter, just softer. To ripen plums, place them in a loosely closed paper bag at room temperature. Check them frequently so they won't get shriveled or moldy. When slightly soft, refrigerate or eat them.
Preparation and Serving Tips
Don't wash plums until you're ready to eat them, or you'll wash away the protective bloom. Like most fruits, they taste best at room temperature or just slightly cooler. Although Japanese plums are best eaten out of hand, most European varieties are excellent for cooking. They're easy to pit, being freestone, and their firmer flesh holds together better. Try famous Damson or Beach plums for preserves. A compote of plums and other fruits, such as apricots, is a traditional way to warm up your winter. Poach plum halves, skin on. Plum sauce is a treat on ice milk or mixed into yogurt.
The plum's versatility will offer you healthy weight-loss choices and help keep you from falling into an eating rut.
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