By Vicky Babcock
Plums may have been one of the first fruits cultivated by humans. It appears to have several origins and varieties. Prunus domestica has been traced to East European and Caucasian mountains, while Prunus salicina and Prunus simonii originated in Asia. The remnants of plums were discovered in archaeological digs dating to the Neolihic age (Wikipedia).
A relative to peaches, nectarines and almonds, the plum is a member of the rose family. It is considered a drupe—a fruit with a stone pit surrounding their seeds. Plum trees blossom in the spring and a healthy tree will produce an abundant crop in late summer to early fall. Asian varieties can be harvested much earlier, sometimes as early as May. China is the leading producer of plums, with the U.S. lagging a distant sixth. Of the 50 states, California leads in plum production.
The plum tree is featured significantly in Chinese mythology. It is associated with wisdom and longevity, and blossoms from the plum tree are frequently carved in jade to symbolize resurrection. It is often represented in Asian art and is included among “the three friends of winter” and “the four gentlemen,” traditional groupings of plants which often appear in artworks. The three friends—pine, bamboo and plum—are associated with strength and endurance during the cold winter months, while the four gentlemen—plum, orchid, bamboo and chrysanthemum—represent the seasons, as well as noble virtues.
Plum varieties range from sweet to tart and the skin can be somewhat tart. They are featured heavily in much Asian cuisine, while Americans are more likely to consume them in their natural state. Plums are a good source of vitamin C and a good source of vitamin K, copper, fiber and potassium. With about 30 calories per fruit, plums are an excellent choice to round out your diet.
On a cautionary note, plums contain measurable amounts of oxalates. In heavy concentrations, these can crystallize and create health problems. Individuals with kidney or gallbladder conditions probably should avoid eating plums. If you have any concerns, please speak with your doctor.
Nana’s Plum Bread
1 to 1 ½ cups pitted, chopped plums
1 T. flour1 ½ cups flour
½ cup butter, softened½ tsp. salt
¾ cup sugar½ tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. vanilla extract¼ tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. orange extract2 T. sour cream
2 large eggs2 T. brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350º F. Butter a 9×5-inch loaf pan and dust with about 1 tablespoon of white sugar. In a small bowl, sprinkle plums with 1 tablespoon flour. Toss lightly to coat; set aside.
In a large bowl, beat together butter, ¾ cup sugar and extracts. Add eggs and beat until fluffy. In a separate bowl, stir together remaining dry ingredients except for brown sugar. Add to egg mixture, stirring until mixture is smooth and dry ingredients are incorporated. Stir in sour cream. Fold plums into batter, then pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle with brown sugar.
Bake in pre-heated oven for 50-55 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5-10 minutes before removing from pan. Cool on a wire rack.
Note: Baking times are approximate.
Fresh Market is brought to you by Solon Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue. For more information call 616-696-1718. Like us on facebook for updates.