Plums, a sweet delicacy

The plum symbolizes the sun’s comeback after winter and colors abound in the plate… raw, cooked, in jam or dessert, the prune has assets that make our taste buds tingle!

The plum in a couple facts

Production in France (1) – 56 000 tons (average 2008-2012)
Production areas in France – Midi-Pyrénées, PACA, Rhône-Alpes
Availability – from July to October
Full season – August
Average price in 2013 (2) – 2.83 € / kg
Household consumption in 2013 (2) – 4 lbs (1 kg) per household
Nutrition (3) – 3.5 oz (100 g) of plums are equivalent to 48.7 kcal

About growing plums

Plum trees are sometimes used as ornamental plants. It is, however, most often grown for its fruits. It is one of the most commonly planted fruit trees in France. The Plum tree is a robust tree that resists quite well to cold winters, so it can be found both in Northern areas and Southern areas.

The first flowers start appearing on branches at the beginning of spring. But July is when the first fruits are ready for harvesting.

The most tardy varieties even fiddle around until September.

A little bit of history

It isn’t quite certain where the plum tree, as it is grown in Europe today, comes from. It seems to be a hybrid bred from several European and Asian species that is over thousands of years old. Cultivation of plums seems ancient. Archaeologists have found fruit stones related to Mirabelles in digging sites that date back to the Bronze Age.

It has also been shown that in Egypt, dried prunes where placed in the tombs under the Pyramids. The prune was also widely grown in Syria, where the Crusaders were stopped.

In France, the Middle Ages and especially the Renaissance is when plums made it into the spotlight. One particular variety, the “Reine-Claude” (greengage), took on the name of the Queen of King François the 1st who adored the fruits.

About cooking plums

The plum must be soft to the touch without being mushy. The skin must be smooth, without blemishes, and a sweet fragrance must emanate from it. The thin white veil that covers the fruit is called “bloom”: it is a sort of natural wax barrier that the fruit produces to fend off harsh rays of the sun. This bloom is a sign that the fruit is very fresh, and wasn’t handled too much since being harvested. Note that some varieties don’t produce this bloom naturally.

There are many plum varieties, nonetheless rarely more than four appear on our market stalls:

  • Greengage or Reine-Claude – rounded, yellow-green in color, with firm, sweet flesh.
  • Mirabelles – smaller still, golden colored, with yellow-orange flesh with a mild sweet taste.
  • Damsons – deep purple, with Japanese-American varieties ‘Golden Japan’ or ‘Blackamber’.

Keeping plums

Plums must be eaten quickly after they’ve been purchased. What is best is thus to eat them on the same day.

Depending on how mature they are, it is possible for them to keep up to ten days in the refrigerator. Best is then to bring them out of the vegetable compartment a few minutes before eating so that the fruit may release its wholesome taste.

With the pit removed, it is very easy to keep plums in the freezer.

Preparing plums

Fresh from the tree, simply rinse it off and bite away! In pies, clafoutis, crumbles, it is easy to bake thanks to its very thin peel that needs not be removed.

To remove the stone, slice the fruit in half at the last minute, or the flesh will turn brown.

With salty dishes, plums pair best with white meats.

And to savor it all year round, plums are perfect for plum jam mixed with tart and tangy fruits like rhubarb, lemons or oranges.

Sources: (1) Agreste, (2) Kantar Worldpanel 2013, (3) Ciqual 2013
© Philippe Dufour/Interfel