Prunus domestica L.
Rose family: Rosaceae, includes Apple, Plum, Peach, Nectarine, Cherry, Almond, Apricot just to mention a few.
Prunes are a special type of dried plums. They are dried from cultivars of plum that are specifically grown for drying. The plums are sweeter and more acidic than the ones eaten fresh. They are oval, black-skinned and with a firmer flesh that is suitable for drying. (Not all plums can be dried)
The most common cultivar of plum used for prune is called California French or d’Agen. It was brought to the US from France by Louis Pellier, who started a nursery in California in the 1850s. Today about 70% if the world’s prune supply and nearly 100% of domestic supply come from California Prune Orchards. (The Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition). \
The European plums, are called purple plums. They can be eaten fresh and can also be dried into prunes because they are sweet, acidic and with a firm flesh suitable for drying.
Fresh plum cultivars are less sweet with a juicy flesh and are usually clingstone, unlike the dried plum cultivars that are freestone.
Clingstone means the single stone or seed inside the plum is not easily separated from the flesh whereas freestone means the single stone or seed inside the plum can be easily separated from the flesh of the fruit.
What are European Prunes?
The European prunes, also called purple plums can be eaten fresh as a plum and can also be dried into prunes.
How are Prunes Dried?
The plums are left to mature on the tree until they are fully ripe and have developed maximum sweetness. They are mechanically harvested and dried for 15-24 hours under closely monitored conditions of temperature and humidity. About 3-4 pounds (1.5-2kg) of fruit are needed to produce a pound (500g) of prunes.
The dried prunes are sorted by size and then stored before they are rinsed with hot water to moisturize them, then they are packed.
The drying process concentrates nutrients in the dried fruit. Prunes are high in fibre, over half of which is soluble and has been linked to lowered blood cholesterol levels (The Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition).
Prunes contain more calories by weight compared to fresh plums that have a very high water content.
What are prunes used for?
Besides being used as a snack they are used in prepared foods, especially baked goods, in dried form as prune bits or in form of a paste.
To chop up prunes use a kitchen scissor and dip it in hot water between cuttings to keep blades clean.
How to reconstitute prunes
Get the weight of the dried prunes and combine with the equal weight of water (or liquid) in a saucepan. Simmer 7-10 minutes, but do not boil otherwise the skin may split.
To use a microwave: Sprinkle the prunes with fruit juice, cover and heat using high power for 2 minutes.
To plump the fruit overnight. place the prunes in a heatproof bowl and add boiling water or liquid to cover. Cover the bowl and place in the fridge until needed. You can drink the left over liquid or use it in a recipe that requires liquid.
100g (3.5 oz) prunes provides the following: 270 calories; Sodium 10mg; Carbohydrate 65g (of which fibre is 6g and sugar is 33g); Protein 3g. It also provides the following RDA for Vitamin A (40%); Vitamin C and Iron (15%). (Bulk Barn)
Use as a snack on its own or mixed with other fruits.
Chop the prunes and use in baked goods like muffins or cakes, in pancake batter or in breakfast cereal or in Oatmeal.
Plump them in fruit juice and add cinnamon, nutmeg or vanilla essence. Plumped prunes can be used in smoothies and shakes.
Plump prunes in wine, port or marsala and serve with yoghurt, whipped cream or ice cream.
Pitted prunes can be braised with poultry, beef, lamb or pork or added to stews in the last 15 minutes of cooking.
The French cook prunes in Armagnac (brandy) and serve it as a side side with meat or poultry.
Chopped prunes can be added as an ingredient in stuffings, mashed sweet potatoes or winter squashes.
Prune juice is very sweet and can be used to sweeten drinks, smoothies, sauces and fruit salads.
Combine with other fruits and nuts to create your own trail mix.
Serve hot prune juice with a dash of lemon juice and a cinnamon stick stirrer.
Storage of Prunes
Store in a cool, dry place, at a temperature no more than 24°C (75°F).