Season for Prunes Available Year Round
It seems that prunes have some unfavorable connotations associated with wrinkles, the elderly and poor gastrointestinal health. And since these couldn't be further from the truth, this fruit has officially been renamed the more apt "dried plum." So put your conceptions aside, and give the prune a chance - that is aside from those occasional times of constipation. In addition to their rockin' nutritional stature, dried plums have a sweet, deep taste and a sticky, chewy texture that can lend itself to both sweet and savory recipes.
How to Buy and Store Prunes
Look for these dried plums sold in transparent containers so that you can inspect them for the highest quality specimens. Opt for plump and shiny prunes that seem relatively soft and are free of mold. Make sure they have tightly sealed packaging so as not to lose any moisture. Also, turn the package around to inspect the ingredient list and make sure not to buy those with preservatives such as sulfites. Store your prunes in an airtight container in a cool, dark place where they will keep for a few months. You can double their lifespan by keeping them in the refrigerator. Either way, remember to keep them tightly sealed in between uses.
How to Cook Prunes
When cooking with prunes, soaking them in water or juice beforehand will reduce your cooking time. Pureed prunes make a good substitute for butter and other fat in baked goods, also adding their characteristic sweetness. In expanding your usage of dried plums, consider them for slow cooking or you can use semi-dried prunes for fast cooking in savory dishes; they add a deliciously sweet element when cooked with meats and starchy vegetables, or in liquid dishes such as cock-a-leekie, tagines, stews and compôtes. Some also enjoy stuffing prunes or wrapping them in bacon for appetizers.
Health Benefits of Prunes
Dried plums are a good source of vitamin A (carotenes) and fiber and contain isatin, a natural laxative - hence their reputation. But there's more: Just like their fresh counterparts, prunes enjoy a great and unique phytonutrient content of neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acid - classified as phenols - that function as antioxidants in the body. They fight damage in the body, with anti-aging and disease-fighting properties, especially as it relates to heart disease and cancers.
Why Buy Natural and Organic Prunes
According to the USDA Pesticide Data Program, 21 pesticide residues were found on conventional plums - 4 of which are known or probable carcinogens, 11 suspected hormone disruptors, 6 neurotoxins and 6 developmental or reproductive toxicants. While that may only be half of what's found on conventional apples, it's enough for us to say: Buy plums and their dried counterparts from an organically-grown source, and avoid all that nasty stuff. Also, remember to avoid prunes that have unnatural preservatives added.