Wellness Encyclopedia — Plums

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There should be more to your autumnal table than just pumpkins and apples…

Late summer’s reward, plucked from boughs weighed down with the season’s sun-ripened fruit. One by one, a basket of amethyst plums grows more abundant at our feet, overflowing with nature’s imperfect precision. The perfect, impossibly round variety found at the grocery store — the product of decades (centuries?) of farmers’ tinkering these are most certainly not. A little misshapen (if you dare call it that), a variety of purple not often seen outside of the imagination, these plums are small, vibrant and incredibly juicy. The way nature intended plums to be. They’re originals.

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As autumn’s crisp mornings and chilly nights visit with growing intensity, our minds have a tendency to forget the fresh crop of seasonal produce now available to us in favor of pumpkin spice-explosions and apple-everything. While I’m not denying the virtues of pumpkins and apples, there’s more to this time of year than these two lucky favorites. Stroll the stalls of your local farmers’ market — or even better, seek out an orchard or a foraging group where you can pick your own — and your eyes will be treated to a rainbow of jewel-toned fruit and vegetables just waiting to be adopted. And adapted. Thrown into recipes and experimented with. Eating seasonally is all about discovery, try leaving behind the fluorescent grocery store for a weekend, and I can almost guarantee you’ll be a farmers’ market devotee in no time, choosing the strange and often oddly-shaped produce that comes from lack of pesticides and human dabbling. If you can suss it out, picking your own food, like plucking ripe and juicy plums from their branches, provides an even greater connection. That bowl of glittering amethyst fruit becomes a treasure, albeit, one you’ll eventually eat.

Plums are more than we give them credit for. Sure, their eventual decline into prunes and their oft-maligned employment is well-documented, but when was the last time you truly gave a plum the time of day? They’re more than meets the eye. Here, I dive into the health benefits of plums. Give it a read, then plan an afternoon at the closest orchard you can find — it’ll be well worth it.

What are they? The common plum, Prunus domestica, and their cultivars are believed to have been one of the first fruits grown and domesticated by humans (remnants of plums have been found with olives and figs in Neolithic-age sites). Native to Eastern Europe and parts of Asia, there are several varieties of this stone fruit that aren’t found at all in the wild, meaning they were cross-pollinated and created by human hands. While we know plums primarily as deep purple, there are several varieties in hues of orange, yellow, and even bright green. Plums are stone fruits — or drupes — which means the fruit’s flesh surrounds a single hard seed at the center.

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What are the benefits? Plums are probably best known for their digestion-relieving fibre content. High in both soluble and insoluble fibre, plums and prunes not only relieve digestion issues, decreasing the risk of colon cancer, but the insoluble fibre provides vital food for the good bacteria in the gut. The relatively low caloric content and high fibre means that plums also normalize blood sugar levels by delaying the absorption of glucose levels. Because of their high levels of vitamin C, plums also increase the absorption of iron into the body and help build a stronger immune system.

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How do I use them? Most drupes and stone fruits are interchangeable in recipes, meaning plums can be used in place of peaches, nectarines and cherries in pies, cakes and sauces. Besides enjoying them raw and as a topping for just about everything — yogurt, granola, ice cream, smoothies, etc. (they’re a fruit, so go crazy) — plums lend themselves to a variety of uses. When you have a big batch, try making plum butter in your slow cooker (recipe here) or use them in the recipe below for a simple plum compote.

Plum Compote

Ingredients:

2 lb plums, pitted and chopped

1 ½ cups coconut sugar + more if desired

2 tbsp vanilla

1 tbsp orange juice

½ tsp cinnamon

Pinch of cloves

Optional: 2 tbsp chia seeds

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and simmer over low heat, stirring frequently, for about an hour or until mixture thickens to the consistency of jam. Taste and add more sugar if desired. The chia seeds may be added towards the end to thicken the mixture even more and for an added nutritional bonus. Serve immediately or store up to three days in a sealed container in the fridge. Enjoy!

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