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plums

I’ve heard references to plum pudding at Christmas time for years. If you’ve read or seen Dickens’ work “A Christmas Carol,” then you know he loved to write about food. In this popular holiday classic, Dickens waxed poetic about huge turkeys and flaming plum puddings. Eating plum pudding after Christmas dinner became an English obsession during Victorian times.

 

Apparently a lot of symbolism goes into this English dessert, but what’s ironic is that it doesn’t even have to contain plums. It looks like a big bee’s nest and contains a mixture of dried fruits and lots of brandy. The closest comparable food item I can compare it to is mincemeat. However, we can have our plums and eat them, too, as eating them fresh or dried is much healthier.

 

Plums are grown locally and at their peak in early fall. Their claim to fame nutritionally is that they are particularly high in the antioxidants known as phenols. Phenols help undo damage caused by free-radical cells, especially those that damage fats. This isn’t good, as some fats in our body have extremely important functions, and one of them is in our brain cells.

 

Fat makes up a large percentage of our brain cells (hence the term fathead), and it helps explain why it is so important for children under the age of two to drink whole milk. They need the extra fat to help build their brain cells.

 

Plums are high in vitamin C. Vitamin C benefits range from building healthy tissue to helping your body absorb more iron to building up your immune system. One antioxidant found in plums that I wasn’t expecting was lutein. Lutein is usually prevalent in plant foods that are yellow or green, so I was surprised to know that plums are a good source of this necessary compound. But that’s because I was picturing plums as purple (the skin), instead of the fruit itself. Eating a food high in lutein helps reduce your risk for developing macular degeneration.

 

Plums are classified in six different categories, so their size, color, and shape may vary from variety to variety. They contain about 40 calories per plum and are a good source of fiber. Plums are related to the peach family and have a hard, flattish stone pit in the center. If you dry or dehydrate a plum, it turns into a prune. Both plums and prunes can help stimulate your bowels, so keep that in mind if you are trying to prevent or cure a bout of constipation.

 

Prunes used to be made by letting plums dry on the tree naturally via the sun (like raisins), but now they are dried in forced air tunnels heated by gas. This helps make the fruit more uniform in size. You can eat them “dry” right out of the pouch, or “wet” in a prune juice liquid. I absolutely love dried prunes, they are better than candy.

 

When it comes to purchasing fresh plums, try to get ones that are ripe and ready to eat. You should be able to squeeze them gently and feel a little give. It they are firm, they can be ripened at home, but if they are picked too soon, they might not have as sweet of a taste. The best time to eat a plum is when it is fully ripened, as that is when it contains the highest level of antioxidants.

 

Plums, and especially prunes, are sort of the Rodney Dangerfield of fruits; they don’t get a lot of respect. But now that you know how great they are, consider them a much better gift than a plum pudding!

Sources:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-plums-prunes

https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/fruit/health-benefits-of-plums.html

https://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/food/article/dried-plums-prunes-sweet-fiber-and-nutrition

Written by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

 

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