(plum beauties at the farmer's market)
Plums come in many different colors - in fact there are over 2,000 different varieties. Plums are in the drupe family, with a hard shell around their seed, similar to almonds, peaches and stone fruits.
Unripe plums are often picked from the tree but sadly they don’t continue to ripe once picked. I prefer to buy local, tree-ripened plums, picked at the peak of ripeness for that sugar sweet juiciness. Ripe plums are plump and soft to the touch and have a floral-almond like scent. It’s best to buy tree-ripened plums in small crates or batches to rule out getting crushed, bruised plums from large crates.
Cooking and more
I prefer Italian plums, which are oval and purple-blackish in color. The variety offers terrific preparation flexibility. You may simply slice them thinly and serve with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of honey. Another favorite way of preparing plums is to cut them into wedges and toss with arugula and crumbled feta cheese – it’s a revelation. Sweet preparations such as plum pie and sheet cakes are a tantalizing finale to a great meal since they’re not too sweet, with their natural tartness.
Other plums such as green, yellow Mirabelle and Japanese plums, a/k/a loquat can be made into jellies, or thinly sliced and sprinkled over pizza in combination with sausage slices and basil. Fermented plums are made into wine, which is popular in Asian countries or distilled into liquor know as Slivovitz in Slavic regions of Europe – in my experience a true firewater!
(tasty plum tart)
Feta & Plum Summer Salad
(recipe makes 4 entrée-sized portions)
4 slices crusty country bread
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 pound plums, Italian plums preferably
Sea salt, to taste
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Black pepper mill grindings, to taste
3/4 pound arugula, rinsed
3 ounces feta or goat cheese
(plum salad with arugula, frisee and sesame crisps)
- Put bread on a baking pan and drizzle with 1-tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Toast bread for 5 minutes in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven. With a large chef knife cut the bread into bite-sized pieces.
- Rinse plums with water and slice into 1/8th wedges.
- In a small mixing bowl whisk lemon juice and salt with a wire whisk for one minute then add oil and black pepper.
- In a large bowl, combine arugula with plums and cheese then add the dressing and toss. Divide the salad into four bowls.
- Sprinkle the salads with toasted bread croutons.
Specific type of plums can be dried into prunes which have gotten a little bit of a bad rap since they have been in senior citizens diet plans for their laxative effect. Hence prunes are advertised more and more as dried plums.
Chef’s Note: Plums often have often a dusty-looking white coat on their skin – it rinses or rubs off easily and is not harmful. It’s a naturally occurring form of wax, which enhances water repellency and is grown by the plant itself.