Plums ~ Super Fruits
There are few fruits that come in such a panorama of colors as the juicy sweet tasting plum.
The season extends from May through October with the Japanese varieties first on the market from May and peaking in August followed by the European varieties in the fall.
This super fruit belongs to the Prunus genus of plants and are relatives of the peach, nectarine and almond.
They're all considered "drupes," fruits that have a hard stone pit surrounding their seeds.
When they are dried, they're known as prunes.
The fresh version (plums) and the dried version (prunes) of the plant have been the subject of repeated health research for their high content of unique phytonutrients called neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acid.
These substances are classified as phenols, and their function as antioxidants has been well-documented.
Significant Antioxidant Protection from Phenols
These damage-preventing substances are particularly effective in neutralizing a particularly destructive oxygen radical called superoxide anion radical, and they've also been shown to help prevent oxygen-based damage to fats, such as the fats that comprise a substantial portion of our brain cells or neurons, the cholesterol and triglycerides circulating in our bloodstream, or the fats that make up our cell membranes.
Better Iron Absorption Plus More Antioxidant Protection from Vitamin-C
The ability of these super fruits to increase absorption of iron into the body has also been documented in published research.
This ability to make iron more available may be related to the
vitamin-C content of this fruit.
These super fruits are a very good source of vitamin-C.
In addition to assisting with absorption of iron, vitamin-C is needed in the body to make healthy tissue and is also needed for a strong immune system.
Getting a little extra vitamin-C around cold and flu season is a good idea, and may also be helpful for people who suffer from recurrent ear infections.
Vitamin-C also helps to protect cholesterol from becoming oxidized by free radicals.
Since oxidized cholesterol is the kind that builds up in the arteries and causes damage to blood vessels, some extra vitamin-C can be helpful for people who suffer from atherosclerosis or diabetic heart disease.
In addition, vitamin-C can help neutralize free radicals that could otherwise contribute to the development or progression of conditions like asthma, colon cancer, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis, so vitamin-C may be able to help those who are at risk or suffering from these conditions.
Owing to the multitude of vitamin-C's health benefits, it's not surprising that research has shown that consumption of vegetables and fruits high in this nutrient is associated
with a reduced risk of death from all causes including heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Protection against Macular Degeneration
Your mother may have told you carrots would keep your eyes bright as a child, but as an adult, it looks like fruit is even more important for keeping your sight.
Data reported in a study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology indicates that eating 3 or more servings of fruit per day may lower your risk of age-related macular
degeneration (ARMD), the primary cause of vision loss in older adults, by 36%, compared to persons who consume less than 1.5 servings of fruit daily.
One of the unique things about plums is that there are so many varieties available.
Not only do over 2,000 varieties exist, but over 100 are available in the United States alone.
So, if you're looking for a juicy, sweet tasting fruit that comes in a panorama of colors, this super fruit may be for you.
With the large number of varieties available, it's not surprising that the various types have different heritages and places of origin.
The European variety is thought to have been discovered around two thousand years ago, originating in the area near the Caspian Sea.
Even in ancient Roman times, there were already over 300 varieties of European plums.
These European super fruits made their way across the Atlantic Ocean with the pilgrims, who introduced them into the United States in the 17th century.
While Japanese plums actually originated in China, they derived their name from the country where much of their cultivation and development occurred.
The Japanese version was introduced to the U.S. in the late 19th century.
Today, the United States, Russia, China and Romania are among the main producers.
How to Select & Store
If you want to purchase those that are ripe and ready to eat, look for ones that yield to gentle pressure and that are slightly soft at their tip.
While you can also purchase those that are firm and ripen them at home, avoid the ones that are excessively hard as they'll be immature and will probably not develop a good taste nor texture.
Good quality super fruits will feature a rich color and may still have a slight whitish "bloom," reflecting that they've not been over-handled.
They should also be free of punctures, bruises or any signs of decay.
Plums are generally available in the marketplace from May through the early fall.
Those that are not yet ripe can be left at room temperature.
As this super fruit tends to mature quickly, check on them in the next day or two to ensure that they don't become over-ripe.
Once they are ripe, plums can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days.
While they also can be frozen, to ensure maximum taste remove their stone pits before placing them in your freezer.
For the most antioxidants, consume them when fully ripened.
Research conducted at the University of Innsbruck in Austria suggests that as fruits fully ripen, almost to the point of spoilage, their antioxidant levels actually increase.
The key to the process is the change in color that occurs as fruits ripen, a similar process to that seen in the fall when leaves turn from green to red to yellow to brown, a color change caused by the breakdown and disappearance of chlorophyll, which gives leaves and fruits their green color.
Tips for Preparation:
Plums are delicious eaten as is.
If they've been in the refrigerator, allow them to approach room temperature before eating, as this will help them attain the maximum juiciness and sweetness.
If you want to first remove the pit before eating or cooking, cut the super fruit in half lengthwise, gently twist the halves in opposite directions and then carefully take out the pit.
They can also be used in a variety of recipes and are usually baked or poached.
If you want to remove the skin, this process can be made easier by first blanching in boiling water for 30 seconds.
Once you remove the super fruits from the water, quickly run them under cold water before peeling to stop the blanching process and allow for easier handling.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas:
Make pizza with a twist by broiling sliced plums, goat cheese, walnuts and sage on top of a whole wheat pita bread or pizza crust.
For a delightful dessert, poach them in a red wine and serve with lemon zest.
Bake pitted halves in a 200ºF(93ºC) oven until they're wrinkled.
Then mix them into a rye bread recipe for a scrumptiously sweet and hardy bread.
Blend stewed plums and combine with yogurt and honey for wonderful cold soup.
Add them sliced to cold cereal.
These super fruits are a very good source of vitamin-C.
They're also a good source of vitamin-A, vitamin-B2 and potassium.
In addition, they're a great source of dietary fiber.
So, if you're wondering what to have for dinner tonight ...
Grilled Chicken Breasts with Plum & Walnut Relish
Their myriad of colors are not only beautiful but reflect the presence of the health-promoting phytonutrients found in plums.
Combined with plums' very good source of vitamin-C these phytonutrients provide powerful antioxidant protection against the oxidative damage to DNA and cellular structures caused by free radicals.
Sweet plums are blended with citrus zest, a little spice, and crunchy walnuts, to create a delightfully flavored, low-calorie chicken topping.
Time: 28 minutes + standing time
• 2 med. black plums, pitted and chopped (1 1/2 c.)
• 1/2 c. orange juice, divided
• 1/4 s. red onion, chopped (2 Tbs.)
• 1 Tbs. honey
• 1 1/2 tsp. freshly grated orange zest, divided
• 1/2 c. chopped walnuts (MUFA)
• 2 tsp. olive oil
• 1/4 tsp. sea salt
• 1/4 tsp. red-pepper flakes
• 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6 oz. each)
1. Prepare relish: Combine plums, 1/4 c. of the orange juice, onion, honey, and 1/2 tsp. of the orange zest in medium bowl.
Stir in walnuts (yields 2 c.).
2. Mix oil, sea salt, red-pepper flakes, and remaining 1/4 c. orange juice and 1 tsp. orange zest in pie plate or shallow dish with fork.
Add chicken and turn to coat.
Let relish and chicken stand 10 to 20 minutes.
3. Heat grill to medium-high or coat grill pan with cooking spray and heat 3 minutes over medium heat.
Grill chicken, turning once, about 10 minutes or until browned and internal temp is 170°F and juices run clear.
Serve with relish.
37 g. Protein,
18 g. Carbohydrates,
2 g. Fiber,
16 g. Fat,
2.5 g. Saturated Fat,
94 mg. Cholesterol,
228 mg. Sodium
Tip: Citrus zest enhances the flavor of just about any dish for virtually no calories.
Wash the fruit well and grate the peel right before adding, in order to preserve the delicate, aromatic oils and beneficial compounds it contains.
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