Properties and Benefits of Plums: Today I am going to talk to you about another summer delight, the delicious and highly nutritious plum. The plum (Prunus domestica) is a majestic-looking fruit with a considerable number of health benefits. Plums belong to the Prunus genus and are distant relatives of peaches and nectarines. From a botanical point of view, they are considered drupes, fruits whose seeds are protected by a hardened shell.
The plum tree is said to have been domesticated so long ago that its traces are lost in time. Historians believe however that the plum tree can be traced back as far as the Neolithic age. Althogh there are numerous plum species (aproximately 100), only the European and the Japanese plum are commercialised worldwide.
When ripe, plums vary in colour from green (Greengage plums) and red (the Victoria cultivar) to yellow (Yellow Gage plums) and purple or dark-purple (Damson plums). Although many people ascribe mirabelles to the plum category as well, they are not actually plums, but an entirely different fruit.
Most plum varieties are sweet and juicy, with a firm to succulent flesh, depending on how ripe they are. They have an original flavour as far as both taste and smell are concerned, which is why they are a preferred choice for a number of refined dishes. However, there are varieties with a tardier flavor or a harder skin.
Whether they are fresh or dry, plums are well known for their amazing health benefits. For example, studies show that regular consumption of the fruit increases the absorption of iron due to the presence of considerable amounts of vitamin C. Moreover, plums contain tryptophan, an essential amino acid that our body converts to serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Tryptophan also plays an important role in protein synthesis as well.
Plums are a good source of vitamins A and K as well. While vitamin A contributes to good immunity and eye heath, vitamin K supports blood coagulation. In addition to this, both fresh and dried plums (commonly called prunes) are rich in dietary fiber, indigestible plant matter that helps reduce the LDL (bad) cholesterol by regulating intestinal activity. A healthy fiber intake is also known to relieve constipation and protect the colon by reducing the time it is exposed to the toxic waste material.
Dry plums have been shown to have a higher antioxidant content than blueberries which is why they have been the focus of numerous important research. Chlorogenic and neochlorogenic acid are two phytochemicals found both in fresh and dry plums. They are basically natural antioxidants with wonderful health properties, capable of destroying an infamous free radical called superoxide anion, and preventing its destructive effects on cell tissues.
In addition to this, plums also have small quantities of basically every important vitamin and mineral (they contain B-group vitamins as well as vitamins C, A, K and E and trace amounts of magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, maganese, zinc, iron and calcium).
Overall, plums are a delicious cocktail of phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals with strong antioxidant effects. When they are in season (from roughly May to October), it is best to consume them fresh so you can enjoy their original flavour. In winter, the dry varieties are perfect to satisfy your craving for something sweet and healthy.
Interesting facts: people have even turned plums into strong alcoholic beverages such as slivovitz (in Serbia), palinka (in Hungary) or pălincă (in Romania). Traditional plum jams of a pasty consistency called plum butter or plum stew are also highly appreciated in Southeast Europe where they are used as filling for pancakes, gogoși (the Romanian version of doughnuts) or as a sandwich spread.