There are many varieties of plum with as many different origins, but the European plum, which is the most common today, dates back 2,000 years. While wild plums grew in the New World, pilgrims brought the European plum to America in the 17th century. Plums have been popular throughout history, a fact apparent from the more than 30 varietals found in ancient Rome, praise in prominent writings by Confucius, and even a starring role as Little Jack Horner's prize when he "stuck in his thumb" and pulled the plum out from his pie.
Plums (Prunus domestica) join their stone-fruit relatives peaches, nectarines and apricots on the A-list of seasonal fruits. There are more than 2,000 varieties of plums, with over 100 available in the U.S. These are divided into six categories including Japanese, American, Damson, Ornamental, Wild and European/Garden. Each category is unique, varying in size (oval, round or heart shaped), skins (red, green, yellow or blue-black), and flesh (green, orange, pink and yellow). Both fresh and dried plums (prunes) are known for their health-promoting antioxidant phytonutrients that includes anthocyanins, which may benefit bone health. One cup of sliced plums delivers 26 percent Daily Value (requirement based on 2,000 calories per day) of vitamin C to strengthen immunity, 13 percent DV of bone healthy vitamin K and 11 percent DV of vitamin A for good vision.
Prunes have long been used to treat constipation due to their high concentration of fiber and a natural sugar called sorbitol. Together, these nutrients draw water into the intestines, soften the stool, and speed up the intestinal transit time. Fresh plums work as well, but more of them must be consumed to achieve the same effect. A study in the April 2011 Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics found that four to five prunes twice a day were more effective than psyllium for constipation. Prunes also may aid in preventing and reversing bone loss; a study published in the September 2011 British Journal of Nutrition found that prunes significantly increased bone mineral density in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis.
Colorful, fresh plums can be found in markets from May through September. Let your eyes guide your selection of ready-to-eat plums: Look for bright, firm skins with a little give to gentle pressure. Firm plums will ripen at room temperature at home, so refrigerate them once ripe. Enjoy them out of hand or sliced onto salads or yogurt, or halved, baked and spread with goat cheese, toasted nuts and a honey drizzle.
Plum, 1 cup sliced, raw
Vitamin C: 16 milligrams (26 percent DV)
Vitamin K: 11 micrograms (13 percent DV)
Vitamin A: 569 International Units (11 percent DV)
Dietary fiber: 2 grams (9 percent DV)
Potassium: 259 milligrams (7 percent DV)
"PLUM HEALTHY" TART
1 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs (24 squares)
1 egg white, beaten until light and frothy
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c raspberry all-fruit preserves
Zest of one lemon
6 plums, sliced 1/4-inch
1 tablespoon slivered almonds, toasted
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In medium bowl, combine crust ingredients, and press into 9-inch pan with removable bottom. Bake until golden, 7-8 minutes, cool.
2. In small glass bowl, stir together raspberry preserves and one teaspoon of lemon zest. Microwave 30-60 seconds until thin consistency. Reserving two tablespoons, spread raspberry mixture onto crust bottom.
3. Working from the outside in, arrange plum slices in circular spirals. Drizzle with remaining preserves, top with almonds and remaining lemon zest. Chill one hour before serving.
Nutrition Information Per Serving: 190 calories, 6 grams (g) fat, 34 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 2 g dietary fiber, 124 mg sodium.
(Environmental Nutrition is the award-winning independent newsletter written by nutrition experts dedicated to providing readers up-to-date, accurate information about health and nutrition in clear, concise English. For more information, visit www.environmentalnutrition.com.)