Foodtips: All about plums

A look at plums, that juicy stone fruit.

The plum belongs to the rose family with cherries, peaches and apricots. There are hundreds of plum varieties grown throughout the world. Common varieties include French, Italian, Imperial, Greengage, Long John, Castelton and Fellenburg.

Plums grow on trees in clusters, have smooth skin and a pit in the center. Plums can be oval or round in shape. The skin can be deep purple, red, green, blue or multicolored. The flesh can be orange, red, purple, yellow or white. Plums also vary in taste -- some are sweet while others are tart.

One medium plum contains 30 calories and 8 grams of carbohydrates, and is a good source of vitamin C. They also provide fiber, beta carotene and potassium. They're bursting with the antioxidants neochlorogenic and chologenic acid. Dried plums (aka prunes) contain more antioxidants than the fresh varieties.

Studies have suggested that plums may play a role in helping lower the bad (LDL) cholesterol and may help protect against some forms of cancer (including colon cancer).

Nothing beats sinking your teeth into a fresh, juicy plum, but there are so many other ways to enjoy this summer fruit. Raw plums can be added to salads, cereals or yogurt. Top pancakes, waffles or French toast with sliced plums. They make amazing jams, sauces and chutneys -- perfect over pork or poultry. They can also be baked into muffins, pies, tarts and cakes.

Here is a quick conversion tip for cooking: 1 pound fresh plums equals 6 to 8 whole plums equals 2-1/2 cups sliced equals 2 cups cooked.

Choose plums that are shiny, plump and firm to the touch. Avoid moldy, soft, bruised or those with broken skin. A little brown discoloration on the skin indicates sunburn, but the plum is safe to eat. Unripe plums continue to ripen after picked -- place in a closed paper bag at room temperature for one or two days. Store in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Courtesy Toby Amidor on foodnetwork.com.  For more information, visit www.foodnetwork.com. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.

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