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by Louise Fiszer & Jeannette Ferrary

Plums have intrigued people for thousands of years judging from their presence in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and, more recently and probably more metaphorically in the plum pie of Little Jack Horner. Although there are thousands of plum varieties a simple two category system satisfies our purposes. There are the Fresh and the Cookable.

In the first group, experts generally agree that the world's superlative plums such as the greengages and Coe's Golden Drop are those with yellow to green flesh. But, as with all food preferences, there is always room for disagreement from those of us who grew up equating the word "plum" with the color purple. Recipes for fresh uncooked plums range from salads to dessert. Even the petals of plum blossoms have inspired chefs to include them in sorbets and ice creams. Cooked plums make stuffings, jams, chutneys, tarts, sauces and soups.

In addition to the indigenous American wild plums, this country features numerous varieties of cultivated plums. These include Friars, Empresses, Yakimas and Casselmans. The Santa Rosa plum developed by Luther Burbank in the city for which it is named accounts for 35 percent of the California harvest, which constitutes 90 percent of the country's crop

Consumer and Cooking Guide

Market Selection
The most common yellow-fleshed varieties include Santa Rosa, Black Amber, Nubiana, Laroda, El Dorado, Kelsey and Friar. Red-fleshed varieties are less numerous and include Elephant Heart and Black Beauty. Freestone, green fleshed plums include Italian and Standard, both of which are used for prunes.
Choose plums that are full colored for their variety. Avoid fruit with blemished or broken skin.

June through October; peak -- August, September

Plums may be kept for 2 days at room temperature to ripen. Ripe fruit may be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Flavor Enhancers
Cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg.

Red and yellow fleshed:
1 pound = 4-5 plums
1 pound = 2 cups, sliced

1 pound = about 14 plums
1 pound = 2 cups sliced

Nutritional Value
Good source of vitamin A 30 - 60 calories per plum

Plum, Prosciutto, and Arugula Salad
serves 6

6 cups arugula, torn into bite-sized pieces
4 ripe plums, pitted and thinly sliced
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/3 cup olive oil
3 ounces prosciutto, cut into thin strips
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Combine arugula, plums and onion with the olive oil and toss well. In a small skillet, preferably nonstick, cook the prosciutto about 1 minute . Add the vinegar and cook over medium high heat until syrupy. Pour mixture over greens, toss well and taste for salt and pepper.

Plums in Port
serves 6
For an elegant dessert, serve in champagne goblets topped with lightly sweetened whipped cream.

2 pounds assorted red and black plums, pitted and sliced
1/4 cup port wine
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons orange zest

Place all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan, with 1/4 cup water. Bring to a boil; lower the heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Let cool and refrigerate.

Turkey Cutlets in Plum Mustard Sauce
serves 6

6 turkey cutlets, lightly pounded
salt and pepper
flour for dredging
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
4 red or yellow fleshed plums, pitted and chopped
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Sprinkle the turkey with salt and pepper and lightly dredge in flour. In a large skillet heat the oil and butter. Saute the turkey about 5 minutes per side. Remove and reserve.

In the same skillet, cook the shallot, ginger and jalapeno about 2 minutes. Add the plums and sugar and cook another 2 minutes. Stir in the wine, stock and soy sauce and cook over medium high heat until slightly thickened. Stir in the mustard and cook over low heat about 1 minute. Return turkey to sauce and heat through. Serve, sprinkled with cilantro.


Jeannette & Louise are Bay Area freelance food writers and the authors of several books including Sweet Onions & Sour Cherries and A Good Day for Soup.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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