Prunes are delicious dried fruits obtained after drying ripe plums. Not all the plum varieties can be dried to get good quality prunes. Certain high sugar content, freestone European cultivars such as "prune d'Aegen, and d'Ente are quite popular in the USA for plum production.
Botanically, plums belong to the "drupe" family (Rosaceae) of fruits, characterized by the hard pit (stone) surrounded by firm/soft pulp.
Scientific name: Prunus domestica. L
|Plums! Note for white bloom on the fruit surface.
Photo courtesy: brankomaster
Sacramento valley in California produces most of the exported dried plums in the United States. Improved "French" cultivar is the most preferred type grown in the California valleys. They are characterized by their uniform maturity, high sugar content, fair heat tolerance, and ability to ripen fully on the tree without fermenting.
Plum is a medium-sized deciduous tree, growing about 3-4 meters tall in the cultivated orchards. It produces mauve white flowers that subsequently develop into deep purple fruits, dusted with gray bloom, by August.
Today, most of the work related to securing good quality prunes is done with mechanical assistance, from harvesting to drying. Roughly, three pounds of fresh plums yield one pound of prunes.
Being a "drupe" family fruit, dried plum features a single, hard, inedible pit.
Prunes are an excellent source of soluble dietary fiber, sorbitol, and isatin. These compounds have been known to help smooth digestion and offer comfort from constipation problems. In traditional medicine, soaked prunes consumed as a laxative.
They also provide about 50% RDA levels of vitamin-K per 100 g. Vitamin-K is essential for the smooth functioning of many clotting factors in the blood. It is also required for the bone metabolism. Also, vitamin-K help limit neuronal damage in the Alzheimer's disease patients.
Dried plums are an excellent source of vitamin-A and β-carotene. 100 grams carry 789 IU of vitamin-A. Vitamin-A is essential for good eyesight. It is also required for maintaining healthy mucosa and skin. Consumption of natural fruits rich in vitamin-A has found to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
Likewise as in fresh plums, prunes too carry health promoting flavonoid poly phenolic antioxidants such as lutein, cryptoxanthin, and zeaxanthin in significant amounts.
These compounds help act as scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various disease processes. Zeaxanthin, an important dietary carotenoid selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea where it is thought to provide antioxidant and protective UV light-filtering functions.
Prunes are a concentrated source of in minerals like potassium, copper, manganese, and iron. Iron is required for red blood cell formation. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure.
Further, they are good sources of B-complex groups of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine, and pantothenic acid. These vitamins act as cofactors to help body metabolize carbohydrates, protein and fats.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percent of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.38 g||2%|
|Dietary Fiber||7.1 g||19%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.442 mg||8%|
|Vitamin A||781 IU||26%|
|Vitamin C||0.6 mg||1%|
|Vitamin E||0.43 mg||3%|
|Vitamin K||59.5 µg||50%|
In the supermarkets, prunes can be available around the year in packs, and boxes/bins. Look for authentic produce before purchase. Buy uniform, good (ink black) color, fairly firm to a slightly soft stage of ripeness prunes.
Although bleaching using sulfur gas is not in practice now, avoid any sulfur gas-treated prunes. As a general modern industry practice, potassium sorbate solution may be used to inhibit yeast and mold on prunes.
Dry plums can be stored at room temperature for few days. Inside the refrigerator, they can last for a couple of weeks.
Dried plums can be eaten as is. Immersing them in hot water makes them soft and plump as in raisins.
Here are some serving tips:
Prunes can be enjoyed as is; as delicious snacks.
They can be pureed and preserved for several months inside the refrigerator. They are being used in the preparation of pie, desserts, jams, and jellies.
Add them in cooking dishes, poultry, lamb, and rice pilaf.
Prunes also fond of in the confectionary. They can be added to muffins, bread, trifle, cakes, cookies, etc.
Prunes can be safely consumed by all, including children and pregnant women. People allergic to potassium sorbate may want to avoid them in food.
Plums carry oxalic acid, a naturally-occurring substance found in some fruits and vegetables, which may crystallize as oxalate stones in the urinary tract in some people. people with known oxalate urinary tract stones are encouraged to avoid eating plums. Adequate intake of water is advised to maintain normal urine output even if these persons want to eat them. (Medical disclaimer).
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Further reading and Resources:
Stanford School of Medicine Cancer information Page- Nutrition to Reduce Cancer Risk.