Power to the pur­ple

The Jewish Chronicle - - Life / Food - www.ruthjoseph.co.uk

PLUMS COULD re­ally do with a makeover — or at least their im­age could.

The end of Au­gust will see English plums come into sea­son, but un­like the buzz sur­round­ing the ar­rival of sex­ier straw­ber­ries or as­para­gus, the pur­ple fruit is not some­thing you hear peo­ple get­ting ex­cited about. In late sum­mer, they may rem­i­nisce over sweet black­ber­ries and good Bri­tish Bram­ley ap­ples poached or baked as part of a golden-crusted pie or crum­ble; a firm, crisp Comice or Con­fer­ence pear or, my favourite, the first golden Rus­set ap­ples. But no one raves about the first plums.

And yet they should. The fruit has found its place in the su­per-fruit hi­er­ar­chy, with sci­en­tists at Is­rael’s Vol­cani In­sti­tute dis­cov­er­ing that plums — par­tic­u­larly any dark, red-fleshed va­ri­ety — con­tain one of the high­est lev­els of an­tiox­i­dants out of all the fruit fam­ily.

The re­search took place af­ter the sci­en­tists no­ticed that the French, de­spite their pas­sion for fatty meat and creamy sauces, were still main­tain­ing bet­ter heart health than some of their Euro­pean neigh­bours. They drew the con­clu­sion that this was due to their reg­u­lar con­sump­tion of red wine, which con­tains high lev­els of an­tiox­i­dants de­rived from the skin and seeds of the grapes used to make it.

The re­searchers then found that plums have lev­els of an­tiox­i­dant agents three times as high those in pomegranates and five times higher than red wine. Red Heart Plums — cre­ated by Is­raeli fruit farm­ers, Ben Dor Fruits, were found to be packed with the most an­tiox­i­dants.

In ad­di­tion, plums — in com­mon with peaches — con­tain phe­nols, which were found to kill even the most ag­gres­sive breast cancer cells, which died af­ter treat­ments with peach and plum ex­tracts. As the re­searchers con­cluded: “Not only did the can­cer­ous cells keel over, but the nor­mal cells were not harmed in the process.”

Apart from these won­der­ful at­tributes, plums also con­tain high lev­els of vi­ta­min C, vi­ta­min A, and B com­plex, plus min­er­als such as potas­sium, flu­o­ride and iron. With a 400g pun­net of plums cost­ing £1, they also tend to be a cheaper way of get­ting your an­tiox­i­dants than blue­ber­ries. And you only need to eat one plum to equal a hand­ful of blue­ber­ries.

So there is no doubt that we should up our in­take of fresh dark plums. Eat them as they are, or slice and pair with goat’s cheese, or in an au­tumn fruit salad.

Some­times, how­ever, what is avail­able to us in the su­per­mar­ket can be bland or un­der-ripe. Here is how to transform those plums into a lus­cious, low-fat dessert for six or eight: cut up the plums con­tained in two large pun­nets; place in a large glass con­tainer with a 411g tin of peaches or black­ber­ries in their own juice and then add ei­ther the seeds from a scraped vanilla pod or a few pieces of finely chopped stem gin­ger.

Poach in the mi­crowave on high for about 10–15 min­utes de­pend­ing on the ten­der­ness of the fruit and the size of the slices. You will have the most glo­ri­ous dessert which you can serve with parve ice-cream, cus­tard or if weight-watch­ing, a serv­ing of fro­mage frais or Greek yo­ghurt.

Al­ter­na­tively, you can roast a pun­net of halved, stoned plums for about 20 min­utes in a low oven (170°C) with a tea­spoon of mixed spice and a cou­ple of ta­ble­spoons of soft brown sugar — the juice will run and form a won­der­ful sauce.

Ruth Joseph ex­plains why Lit­tle Jack Horner was right to in­dulge his love of plums

Plums pro­vide five times more an­tiox­i­dants than red wine and are ef­fec­tive in the fight against breast cancer

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