Herbs & Spices
Plums Plums
Plums taste best when consumed fresh from the tree but also provide a fine nutritional snack in its dried form (prunes) as well. Plums long known "fiber" effect on the human body is because the skin contains a substance that is responsible for it. If you peel a plum, it will lose this "fiber" side effect while still providing a nutritional treat.

Prunes, or dried plums, used to be dried on the tree and in the sun like raisins, but now they are dried in air tunnels heated by gas to give them a more uniform appearance. Plums picked for drying are harvested at a more mature stage than those that are used for fresh consumption or canning.

Plums are divided into two broad categories: Japanese plums and European plums, or prunes. The Japanese plum is eaten fresh, canned, and put into jams and jellies. European plums are often called prunes because they can be dried without their pits being removed. In fact, that's the way most people see these plums.

Prunes can also be eaten fresh or used fresh in cooking. About 90 percent of the plums consumed in the United States are grown in California, much of them in the San Joaquin Valley. Twelve Japanese varieties account for three-fourths of California's plum production. Plums are also grown in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Michigan, and New York.

Outside of the United States, Chile is the dominated producer of both Japanese and European plum varieties. A large percentage of their output is exported to the United States. Other large plum producing countries include Germany, Turkey and Japan.

European plums, (prunes or prune plums) are always freestone, meaning the flesh does not adhere to the pit, and they are also always blue or purple in color. European plums are smaller and firmer than the Japanese plums, and they are also sweeter and less juicy.

Plum Nutrition Selection and Storage
When selecting plums, look for plums that show good color for their variety with a slight firmness, but plums with a little give to the touch are fine, too. Avoid plums that are hard or very soft to the touch, poorly colored, or with skin that shows any shriveling, bruises, or breaks. Plums are best picked mature but not fully ripe.

Store the plums at room temperature (between 51°F and 77°F) until fully ripened and ready to eat. To accelerate the ripening process when you bring them home, place the plums in a paper bag along with a ethylene-producing fruit such as a banana, apple, or pear. Plums are ripe and ready to eat when they give off a sweet plum aroma and are soft to the touch. Once ripened, store plums in the refrigerator until eaten, but keep them away from ethylene-producing fruit so the plums do not become overripe.

To remove the pit in freestone plums, cut along the seam of the plum to the pit, then twist each half in the opposite direction. The pit can then be easily cut out. The flesh of the clingstone plum clings to the pit, so it is best to serve these plums by cutting wedges from the skin to the pit until the whole plum has been cut up. Plums can be peeled easily by dropping them in boiling water for around 30 seconds and then immediately chilling them in ice water. The skins of the plums will slip off like those of peaches or tomatoes done in a similar fashion. Even though plums are mostly consumed fresh, they are delicious sautéed or baked as a side dish for poultry and pork. They are also delicious in stuffing, jams, chutney, tarts, sauces, and soups. Chefs often prepare plums with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, lemon, orange, orange liqueurs, brandy, and port.

Tony's Tip
Remember: A prune is always a plum, but a plum is not always a prune.

Tony's Favorite Recipe
Crepes with Spicy Plum Jam

Japanese Varieties
There are twelve major varieties of Japanese plums that account for approximately 70% of the total United States plum production. The Red Beauty and Black Beauty are two of the earliest varieties. Other popular varieties include the Santa Rosa, Queen Rosa, Casselman, Black Amber, Angeleno, Simka and the Laroda.

Plum Seasons Red Beauty plums when fully ripe will have dark red-purple skins and be slightly soft to the touch. Their taste is sweet and very juicy with a slightly tart skin.

Black Beauty plums resemble the Red Beauty in shape and size; however, their skin is a darker, purplish black.

Santa Rosa plums are the most popular plum in California and Arizona and provide a tangy, juicy flavorful taste. They have a reddish-purple skin and an amber flesh with a slight tinge of red.

Queen Rosa plums are very similar to the Santa Rosa on the outside except for its greenish yellow top, near the stem. Its mild and very juicy amber flesh becomes tangy when cooked.

Cassleman are the best tasting late season plum. Their skin color is a bright red and the flesh is a deep amber color giving the plum a very sweet meaty taste.

Black Amber is a super large beautiful black plum primarily used for puddings, pies and sauces.

Angelino is a huge purple plum with a very sweet, meaty yellow flesh. The Angelino is a very versatile plum that is excellent for pies, jams and sauces. It is also is a delicious plum when eaten fresh.

Simka is a very large heart shaped purple plum with a firm pleasantly sweet, golden color, flesh.

Laroda is a dark purple plum similar to the Santa Rosa, but larger and harvested approximately 5-6 weeks later. It is one of the best fresh plums with an excellent, juicy flavor.

El Dorado has a bright red to reddish skin with purple highlights. It has an amber flesh with a mellow, sweet flavor. The plum stays firm during cooking, making it a great plum for canning.

Friar has an either a deep blue or purplish black skin color with an amber flesh. The plum provides a sweet taste when ripe.

Kelsey is a green skinned plum that turns yellow, with red highlights, when ripe. This large, firm aromatic plum offers a rich flavor when ripe.

European Varieties
Italian prune plum, grown in Washington, is the most familiar type of European plum. As this plum ripens, its color changes from a reddish blue to a purple-blue with a powder white bloom when fully ripe. This hardy plum is good for cooking and preserving.

Stanleys are dark blue-black with a firm, greenish yellow flesh.

Blufre (or Blue Free) is similar to the Stanley, but is slightly larger.

Damsons are small blue prune plums with an excellent flavor. They are most used in preserves.

Hybrid Varieties
Plumcot is generally a delicious 50 - 50 cross between a plum and an apricot. The burgundy colored plumcot, with its red flesh, offers the best of both fruits by providing an almost perfect sugar to acid balance, resulting in a fruit that is sweeter than either the plum or the apricot. Others are more like apricots than plums, with a golden skin and bright yellow flesh.

Pluots are usually a 75 percent plum and 25 percent apricot cross, with the best traits of each parent for a sweet intense flavor.

Apriums usually are 25 percent and 75 percent apricot with a yellow skin and a taste more like apricots than plums.

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