Look closely at your plum. Real close. See that? That's Luther Burbank's thumbprint. Luther was a botanist wizard at the turn of the century, a Midas of sorts whose more than 800 varieties of fruits, veggies, flowers, nuts, and grain still grace us today. He invented the Russet Burbank Potato (the most widely used commercial potato today), the Freestone peach, the Shasta Daisy, and the Paradox Walnut, among many others. But most botanists concur that his greatest influence was on plums, the Santa Rosa Plum and successive ones in all colors of skin and flesh. Almost all the plums we know today descend from Luther's stock he imported from Satsuma, Japan.
Plums have been around since BC times, growing in temperate zones of the Northern Hemisphere. Early spring blossoms in a vase bring beauty to the house and endless metaphors in poetry. Native American and early settlers feasted on the wild variety, drying them for use as an important food staple. Plums and prunes are one and the same. Prunes have been trying to remake themselves after suffering from comedic abuse since the early days of radio; they are now going by the moniker “Dried Plum.”
Since Plums come in a panorama of colors of both skin and flesh, plums represent the spectrum of phenols. They are, of course, a great source of Vitamin C - about 6 mg per plum. Plums are a satisfying and restorative snack with 132 mg potassium and almost a gram of fiber per serving. Plums are “climatic” and like peaches and other stone fruit, continue to ripen after picking.
Preparation: Wash your plum right before eating or preparing. To make a wonderful compote, cut plums and cook gently in a bit of water with cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, and sugar.
Storage: Let plums ripen on the counter, out of direct sun. When ripe, they will hold in the fridge for a few days. Let warm to room temperature for maximum juiciness.
- Heidi Lewis