Suppression

Plums

Category: Food

Type

Voluntary

Introduction and description

 
 

A plum is a fruit of the subgenus Prunus of the genus Prunus.

The subgenus Prunus is distinguished from other subgenera (peaches, cherries, bird cherries, etc.) in that the shoots have a terminal bud and solitary side buds which are not clustered.   Unlike peaches and apricots, the skin is smooth and hairless.

As a somewhat frivolous aside, my father used to love plum duff.  My brother and I were never able to work out why, we decided it had some sort of nostalgic connection; even smothered with custard, it did not have much going for it. 

The traditional way to cook it was to steam it.  Some of the more frugally minded housewives of our day would steam it over the washing boiling on the stove, this added quite a piquant flavour to the pudding, making Mondays [the traditional washing day] a day to treasure.

Plum duff is a rich, spiced suet pudding made with raisins or currants.  There are no plums in it, I suppose that is why it was 'duff'.  Such is the quirkiness of the English mind.  

Types

The actual number of species of plum is unknown with estimates between 19 and 40 species. From this diversity, however, only two species, the hexaploid European plum (Prunus domestica) and the diploid Japanese plum (Prunus salicina and hybrids), are grown commercially in any great numbers.

Dried plum fruits are called prunes, although prunes are also a distinct type of plum, and may have antedated the fruits now commonly known as plums.  We have a separate section for prunes.

 

Ume (Prunus mume) is a species of fruit-bearing tree in the genus Prunus, which is often called a plum but is actually more closely related to the apricot.  Again, Umeboshi (Japanese: 梅干, literally "dried ume") are pickled ume fruits common in Japan. The word "umeboshi" is often incorrectly translated into English as "Japanese salt plums," "salt plums" or "pickled plums" and the condiment Umeboshi paste as pickled plum paste, but as you can see this is not technically correct.

Distribution

Plums have been cultivated and eaten for a great many years.  Prunus domestica has been traced to East European and Caucasian mountains, while Prunus salicina and Prunus simonii originated in Asia. Plum remains have been found in Neolithic age archaeological sites along with olives, grapes and figs.

These days, plums are produced around the world, and China is the world's largest producer. India comes next with Serbia not far behind.  Romania, Chile, Turkey, Iran, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Italy are also top producers.  The USA ranked tenth in 2010.

In the United States, the Japanese varieties of plums are predominant. California was the dominant producer in 2011; other producers are Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Michigan.

Description

Plums are a diverse group of species. Commercially grown plum trees are medium-sized, usually pruned to about 5–6 metres in height. Without pruning, the trees can reach 12 metres in height and spread across 10 metres.

 

They blossom in different months in different parts of the world; for example, in about January in Taiwan and early April in the United Kingdom.  The flowers are in groups of one to five together on short stems.

Fruits are usually of medium size, between 1 and 3 inches in diameter, globose to oval. The flesh is firm and juicy. The fruit's peel is smooth.  Mature plum fruit may have a dusty-white coating that gives them a glaucous appearance. This is an epicuticular wax coating and is known as "wax bloom".  The plum is a drupe, meaning its fleshy fruit surrounds a single hard seed.  The fruit have a groove running down one side and a smooth stone (or pit).

As with many other members of the rose family, plum seeds contain cyanogenic glycosides, including amygdalin.  These substances are capable of decomposing into a sugar molecule and hydrogen cyanide gas.  But given the hardness of the seed, and its size, no one is ever likely to eat the seed/stone of a plum.

Cultivation

The plum blossom or meihua (Chinese: 梅花; pinyin: méihuā),
along with the peony, are considered the traditional floral
emblems of China.

The tree is of medium hardiness.  When it flowers in the early spring, a plum tree will be covered in blossoms, and in a good year approximately 50% of the flowers will be pollinated and become plums.

Assuming of course we haven't destroyed our bee and insect populations.

Flowering starts after 80 growing degree days.

If the weather is too dry, the plums will not develop past a certain stage, but will fall from the tree while still tiny, green buds, and if it is unseasonably wet or if the plums are not harvested as soon as they are ripe, the fruit may develop a fungal condition called brown rot.

Brown rot is not toxic, and very small affected areas can be cut out of the fruit, but unless the rot is caught immediately, the fruit will no longer be edible.

Plum is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera, including November moth, willow beauty and short-cloaked moth.

Nutrients and medicinal uses

 

Dr Duke’s Phytochemical database analyses are shown in the observations below and describe a wealth of healing potential. 

Perhaps one of the best known uses for both plums and prunes are as a natural laxative. “This effect has been attributed to various compounds present in the fruits, such as dietary fibre, sorbitol, and isatin.”

The nutrients according to the USDA Nutrients database are as follows.  As you can see plums are extremely rich in minerals, vitamins and amino acids.

NUTRIENT

UNIT

VALUE PER 100 g

Protein

g

0.70

Total lipid (fat)

g

0.28

Fiber, total dietary

g

1.4

Sugars, total

g

9.92

MINERALS

 

 

Calcium, Ca

mg

6

Iron, Fe

mg

0.17

Magnesium, Mg

mg

7

Phosphorus, P

mg

16

Potassium, K

mg

157

Sodium, Na

mg

0

Zinc, Zn

mg

0.10

Copper, Cu

mg

0.057

Manganese, Mn

mg

0.052

Selenium, Se

µg

0.0

Fluoride, F

µg

2.0

VITAMINS

 

 

Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid

mg

9.5

Thiamin

mg

0.028

Riboflavin

mg

0.026

Niacin

mg

0.417

Pantothenic acid

mg

0.135

Vitamin B-6

mg

0.029

Folate, total

µg

5

Choline, total

mg

1.9

Vitamin B-12

µg

0.00

Vitamin A, RAE  

µg

17

Carotene, beta

µg

190

Carotene, alpha

µg

0

Cryptoxanthin, beta

µg

35

Vitamin A, IU

IU

345

Lutein + zeaxanthin

µg

73

Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)

mg

0.26

Tocopherol, gamma

mg

0.08

Vitamin D

IU

0

Vitamin K (phylloquinone)

µg

6.4

FATTY ACIDS

 

 

Fatty acids, total saturated

g

0.017

Fatty acids, total monounsaturated

g

0.134

AMINO ACIDS

 

 

Phytosterols

mg

7

Tryptophan

g

0.009

Threonine

g

0.010

Isoleucine

g

0.014

Leucine

g

0.015

Lysine

g

0.016

Methionine

g

0.008

Cystine

g

0.002

Phenylalanine

g

0.014

Tyrosine

g

0.008

Valine

g

0.016

Arginine

g

0.009

Histidine

g

0.009

Alanine

g

0.028

Aspartic acid

g

0.352

Glutamic acid

g

0.035

Glycine

g

0.009

Proline

g

0.027

Serine

g

0.023

Method

Gluten free plum crumble

 Plums are remarkably versatile and can be used in both deserts and in savoury dishes.  The staple way in which plums were once preserved was as plum jam or plum chutney and hundreds of good recipes can be found on the Internet for both.  Plum chutney can be made with liquorice added and it is not only very good, but is a good medicine as liquorice is an antiviral.

Dried plums (or prunes) are described in a separate section.  Dried, salted plums are used as a snack, sometimes known as saladito or salao. Various flavours of dried plum can be found generally in Chinese grocers and speciality stores. They tend to be much drier than the standard prune. Cream, ginseng, spicy, and salty are among the common varieties.  Liquorice may be used to intensify the flavour of salted  plums too.

Damsons

A large number of plums, of the Damson variety, are grown in Hungary, where they are called szilva and are used to make lekvar (a plum paste jam), palinka (traditional fruit brandy), plum dumplings, and other foods. The region of Szabolcs-Szatmár, in the northeastern part of the country near the borders with Ukraine and Romania, is a major producer of plums.

 Deborah Madison’s Sauteed plums with cardamom

This is a desert and can be served with Greek yoghurt or mascarpone.

2 tbsp unsalted butter
4-6 large plums, sliced into wedges
50g sugar
½ tsp ground cardamom
2 tbsp Grand Marnier or 1 tsp orange-flower water

1 Heat the butter in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. When it melts, add the plums, sugar, and cardamom. Raise the heat and cook, jerking the fruit in the pan about every 30 seconds so that the cut surfaces take on some colour, eventually caramelising.

2 After 5 minutes or so, the plums will give up their juices. Continue cooking on high heat until the juice just coats the fruit and the smell of caramel is apparent. Remove from the heat and add the Grand Marnier, or orange-flower water if using. Then remove to a serving bowl, scraping in all the liquid from the pan. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

 

 Greengages

The greengages are a group of cultivars of the common European plum. The first true greengage was bred in Moissac, France, from a green-fruited wild plum ('Canerik') originally found in Asia Minor; that original greengage cultivar nowadays survives in an almost unchanged form as the cultivar 'Reine Claude Verte'.  The skin ranges in colour from green to yellowish; a few Reine Claudes – such as 'Graf Althanns' – are reddish-purple due to crossbreeding with other plums. Greengages have a truly delicious flavour but they are not easy to grow, they may even go years without fruiting.  They are considered to be among the finest dessert plums and go extremely well with soft cheeses.

Fesenjoon

Fesenjoon is an Iranian stew of ground walnuts, pomegranate molasses, dried [or fresh] plums and chicken, served over rice.

2 large sweet onions sliced thinly and fried until golden brown in vegetable oil .  Keep warm

4 chicken drumsticks

8 ounces walnut halves (about 2 cups) picked through to remove any shells

½ cup cold water or chicken stock [stock preferred]

½  cup pomegranate molasses

salt to taste

⅛ tsp freshly cracked black pepper

½ lb dried or fresh plums [stoned and halved]

Pomegranate seeds for garnish

Add walnuts to a food processor and process until it turns to a paste or like ground almonds.

With the food processor running add water or stock through the feed chute. Continue processing until  it becomes a fine loose paste.

Add chicken to a casserole dish with lid.

Spoon the walnut paste evenly over the chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Drizzle the pomegranate molasses over all the ingredients.

Add plums, tucking them round the meat.  Put on lid.

Place in the oven – bottom oven of an Aga or slow roasting setting for ordinary oven.

Allow to slow roast for at least 1 ½ hours, longer if possible.

The chicken should be fork tender and fall off the bone, but not dry.

Transfer the Fesenjan to a serving dish and sprinkle the onions and pomegranate seeds on top as garnish.

Serve with white steamed rice.

 

 Mirabelles

The mirabelle plum, (Prunus domestica subsp. syriaca), is believed to have been cultivated from a wild fruit grown in Anatolia.  It is a dark yellow colour which becomes flecked in appearance. They are known for being sweet and full of flavour. Its juice is commonly fermented for wine or distilled into plum brandy. Ninety percent of mirabelle plums grown commercially are made into either jam (70%) or eau de vie (20%). The plums are also excellent when eaten fresh.  The mirabelle is a speciality of the French region of Lorraine.  There are two main cultivars grown for fruit production.  The Metz type is smaller, less hard, and less sweet, and has no small red spots on the skin. It is very good for jam, while the Nancy type is better as fresh fruit as it is sweeter.

Gluten free plum crumble

Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.

FILLING

2 lbs fresh ripe plums with skin, pitted and halved

¾ cup granulated sugar

Juice of ½  freshly squeezed lemon

THE TOPPING

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup flaked oats

½ cup coconut flakes

¼ tsp salt

⅓ tsp ground cinnamon

½ cup coarsely chopped pecans

½ lb butter, melted

 

Add the sliced plums, sugar, and lemon juice to a heavy bottomed saucepan warm the plum and sugar mixture until it bubbles. Cook uncovered for about 20 minutes, or until the syrup thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Stir occasionally so the syrup does not burn.

Transfer the plums to a heatproof pyrex baking dish and leave to cool uncovered for at least 2 hours at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350 F

In a bowl mix the brown sugar, oats, coconut flakes, salt, cinnamon powder and chopped pecans.

Add the melted butter and stir until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Sprinkle the topping over the plums and bake for 30 minutes until golden brown, and the fruit juices begin to bubble and surface on the sides. Remove from the oven and cool for 20 minutes.

 

 Victoria plums

The Victoria plum is a type of English plum, first discovered in a garden in Alderton, Sussex and named after Queen Victoria. It is a cultivar of Prunus domestica ssp. intermedia.  The advantages of the Victoria plum for an ordinary person are that not only is the plum sweet and tasty, but the tree is quite hardy, grows strongly and is not very large. Furthermore, it is self-fertile and rarely attacked by diseases, meaning you only need one tree in your back garden.   Wikipedia says one of its disadvantages is that “the trees rarely get old due to their high fruit production”, which must rank as comment of the year. 

Meera Sodha’s Hyderabadi chicken kofta with plums

Serve with naan bread and a cucumber salad.

1 lb  ripe plums
2 garlic cloves, peeled
4cm ginger, peeled
2-4 green finger chillies [seeds removed]
1 lbs chicken or turkey mince
1 tsp ground chilli powder
½ tsp ground fennel seeds
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ ground cardamom
1 tsp tamarind paste
1 tsp salt
1 medium egg, whisked
2 tbsp oil for frying

 

1 Roughly chop the plums, removing the stones, and pop them into a blender.

2 Pour the blended plums into a saucepan and reduce for around 20 minutes or until very thick and jammy. Take off the heat and leave to one side to cool.

3 Rinse the blender and blend together the garlic, ginger and chillies and transfer to a large bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients: mince, chilli powder, fennel, cinnamon, cardamom, tamarind, salt and egg.

4 Mix together and add the plum sauce (there should be around 150g of reduced plums) and mix again. Leave the mixture to cool in the fridge for around 10 minutes then roll into ping-pong-ball-sized kofta and flatten into discs.

5 Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and cook the kofta in batches for around 4 minutes, turning until evenly cooked through.

 

 Satsuma plums

Plums and pomegranate molasses

This chutney like compote is delicious served with herb or plain sausages and can be accompanied by polenta and optionally plain boiled cabbage. 

The same recipe with all the ingredients can also be used as a marinade for duck breasts or legs.  The duck legs are marinated overnight in a bowl or a plastic bag filled with the marinade and duck legs.  The legs and marinade can then be very slow roasted [cool oven bottom oven of an Aga] in a non stick roasting pan.  The duck legs will need turning

Basic recipe

1 lb Plums pitted and halved

¼ lb Pitted prunes [optional]

¼  teaspoon ground star anise

2 tablespoons Pomegranate molasses

Extras and variations

Zest and juice of one orange

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

½ teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns crushed

 

Put all the ingredients for the basic recipe into a heavy bottomed saucepan and cook on low heat until the plums are soft.

 

Serve at room temperature.

 

The extras and variations can be added singly or more than one can be added to provide a range of flavours.

 

 Yellow gage

Roasted plums and parsnips

You can pan fry these, but roasting seems to bring out the flavours better, this dish goes well with pork sausages or poultry – duck or chicken.  Preheat the oven to medium to high before you start.  Rather than cooking the watercress with the parsnips and plums, you can simply serve the plums and parsnips with the watercress as a garnish

3 firm parsnips
Salt, to taste
25g unsalted butter
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
8 firm plums, halved and stoned
2 sprigs of lemon thyme

A large handful of watercress leaves

 

Peel, trim and cut the parsnips into cubes the same size as the plum halves.

Blanch the parsnips in boiling salted water for a few minutes until tender but not overcooked.

Drain well and set aside

Melt the butter and oil in a roasting pan.

Add the parsnips and toss until covered in oil.

Roast for about 10 minutes, then turn them over and add the plums roast for about 10 minutes more   

Just before serving, add the lemon thyme and watercress

 The Serbian plum

The Serbian plum (Serbian: шљива / šljiva) is the third most produced in the world. In the Balkans, plum is converted into an alcoholic drink named slivovitz (plum brandy) (Serbian: шљивовица / šljivovica

Rosie Reynolds’ Plum salad

 

6 English plums, halved and stoned
140g watercress, rocket and spinach leaves
200g Lancashire cheese, crumbled
100g flaked almonds, toasted and roughly chopped

For the dressing
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tbsp light olive or sunflower oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
½ tsp English mustard
1 tbsp honey

 

Put the onion in a small bowl with the lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Leave to stand for 5 minutes.

Combine with the other dressing ingredients in a serving dish. Set aside.

Slice the plums and add to the dish with the onions and salad leaves.

Pour over half of the dressing and toss to combine.

Scatter over the crumbled cheese and chopped nuts, pour over the remaining dressing and serve.

 

 

Plum jerkum wine

Because plums have a bloom, they ferment very readily and make good wines, as fruity and tasty as grape wines.  Plum jerkum is a traditional English wine and this recipe shows how to make it.

5 - 10 lbs ripe plums stoned and chopped, the quantity depends on the intensity of flavour, mild flavour means more plums

1 gallon warm clean preferably soft water

1 lemon squeezed

½ tsp tannin – see note

Pectolase [optional – see notes]

3 lbs brown sugar or honey to taste

Port yeast – see notes

Wash plums but make sure you do not remove the bloom;  place in large fermenting vessel; pour on 2 quarts of warm water.  It may help to have the water boiling as this draws out the flavours better, but the mixture should not be boiled.

When cool mash the plums with your hands squidging the fruit until it is a pulp.  This is a very satisfying job, do it to music, take your time

Add the squeezed lemon and its juice

Add the tannin and optionally the pectolase [see notes]

After 2 days add HALF the sugar or honey

Ferment on the pulp for at least a week – it will be quite lively, cover with a clean tea cloth. 

Strain and top up with the remaining water.  Now add some more sugar or honey and leave another week.  Finally add the remaining sugar or honey and leave a week.

Finally strain again and put the mixture in demi-johns with a bung.

Wait until totally fermented, strain and filter into bottles

Wait at least 6 months – the more the better.

 Note 1:  pectolyase is [or should be] a naturally occurring type of enzyme that degrades pectin. It is used to remove pectin from both wine and cider and helps improve the extraction of both juice and flavour from the fruit.  Pectin tends to make wine hazy, but adding pectolase is not necessary simply desirable, it tends to be more desirable with stone fruits like damson peach and plum.  Pectin destroying enzymes are most effective in a warm must that contains little or no sugar.  A teaspoon per gallon is plenty for most fruits, but any rich in pectin may need a tablespoon

Note 2:  If the plums you use are damsons or red plums you will not need the tannin as damson skins are rich in tannin anyway.  If you would like to add a natural source of tannin to your wine then add some grapes skins, blackberries or a couple of chopped apples with peel.  Tannin gives ‘bite’ to a wine, so if you like your wine soft then do not add any tannin.

Note 3:  The yeast is optional, in the old days yeast was not added as the plum skins were considered to have enough, but you may like to use the yeast as an ‘insurance’ – so you are sure to get something.  If you use boiling water, then the yeast is not an option - it is mandatory, because the yeast on the skins will have been killed off.  If you can’t get the port yeast then any wine yeast will do

References and further reading

Some alternative recipes for the Plum jerkum can be found via this LINK

Related observations