In Season: Enjoying Plums at Their Peak Flavor
You may have been seeing plums in stores for a month or so, now, but our plums – Empress Plums from Hale Groves – reach their peak in September.
Before we focus on just how special Empress Plums are, we’ll answer a few questions about plums in general:
What is a Plum?
Like peaches, cherries, nectarines and apricots, plums are drupes, or stone fruits.
Drupes grow on trees. A drupe is a fleshy fruit containing a single hard pit or “stone” that holds the fruit tree’s seed. Drupes don’t section like citrus fruits, but they usually have a vertical seam along one side that stretches from the stem end to the bottom of the fruit. When removing the stone from a drupe, it’s best to slice along this seam to separate the fruit in half.
Plum trees are among the earliest fruit trees to be domesticated. They are believed to have originated in the mountains of Eastern Europe and Asia. Plums are deciduous trees (meaning they lose their leaves at the end of the growing season, unlike evergreens). They’re attractive and hardy, meaning they’re often used as ornamentals as well as fruit providers and can grow in a broad range of climates around the world (including the United States, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Japan, and China)
There are a wide variety of plums available, but all varieties feature small-to-medium fruits with an oval-to-round shape and smooth, thin, waxy skins that come in shades of red, black, yellow, blue or green, depending on the variety. Our Empress Plums are small with bluish-purple skins and firm, sweet-tart yellow flesh. The flesh is juicy and can be used in a variety of fresh and cooked applications.
When is Plum Season?
Wondering when to buy plums? It can be a bit confusing…depending on the variety and where they’re grown, plums can be found anytime from late spring to early fall. In the US, the plum is usually considered to be a late-summer/early-fall fruit.
This is especially true of our Empress Plums, which are considered a delicacy in many culinary circles. Also known as Italian Plums, prune plums, and cooking plums, Empress Plums can be hard to find in stores. They have a short season, and since we take pride in providing only the best available fruit, our Empress Plums are only available in September, during the peak growing season. That way, we can assure you that the plums you order from us are perfectly ripe but not too ripe. We also make sure to ship your Empress Plums out to you within days of you placing your order so that you can enjoy their farm-to-table taste at its sweet, juicy best.
Are Plums Good for You?
It’s a pity Empress Plums aren’t available year-round, because they’re highly nutritious – in fact, they’re a superfood. Packed with dietary fiber (which supports a healthy digestive system), plums are also rich in vitamins A, B, C, D and K as well as potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and phytonutrients.
Studies show that a diet that includes plums can help battle constipation, regulate your blood pressure, lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke. The antioxidants in plums have been shown to help fight cancer, keep your skin healthy and glowing, and help prevent colds and viruses. Eating a plum after a workout has even been shown to help you recover faster.
How Can Plums Be Used in Cooking?
Plums make a wonderful, delicious low-calorie snack when eaten flesh, but they’re also great in many baked and cooked dishes. If you plan to cook with plums, our Empress Plums are your best bet (this is why they are also known as “Cooking Plums”). They make an attractive as well as delicious addition to your cooked dishes because their flesh turns a bright, deep pink when cooked.
You can use Empress Plums in any recipe that calls for peaches or nectarines (plum pies and tarts are especially tasty). Unlike with peaches, their thin skins do not need to be peeled because they don’t toughen when cooked. They also work well in cookies, muffins, crumbles and crisps. Plum jam made from Empress Plums is a wonderful alternative to grape jelly on your toast, English muffins or bagels.
Empress Plums are popularly used in savory dishes as well as sweet. They have been used in pork and poultry dishes in Asian cuisine for centuries. Lamb stew with dried plums (a dish made famous in the novel The Hunger Games) is a popular west African recipe. Roasted or grilled plums are a wonderful accompaniment to a beef tenderloin, while plum slices make a fresh alternative to lemon over baked fish.
What’s the Best Way to Store and Preserve Plums?
We don’t recommend storing plums at room temperature unless they’re underripe (which ours won’t be!). If you’re not using your ripe plums right away, store them in the fridge, preferably away from other fruits and vegetables. If you enjoy the taste of a fresh plum most when it’s room temperature, you can set them on the countertop for half an hour before eating them.
Fresh plums last in the refrigerator anywhere from three to five days, so if you have more than you can use in that time, you’d best preserve them. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to do this.
Think you’ve never had Empress Plums before? Think again – if you’ve ever had prunes (dried plums) you probably have, because Empress Plums are the best for drying. (In fact, one of their many names is the “prune plum.”) Dried plums are a great way to preserve your plums because they last a long time and make a sweet, healthy, and delicious snack.
Plums freeze well and can be used in a variety of recipes. Wash and dry them first, then cut them up and remove the stones. Place them in the freezer on a lined baking sheet for half an hour, then transfer them to a freezer bag. Frozen plums keep in the freezer for at least six months. Use them to make smoothies, jams, sauces, chutneys or jam later (just be sure to defrost them first).
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