Certain varieties of plums have such firm flesh and such a high sugar content that they can be dried with little loss of their original plumpness and flavor. These plums are called prune-plums, and the dried plums themselves are called prunes.
Plums are divided into three groups--European, Japanese, and native North American--based on their geographic origins. European plums include the familiar blue fruits commonly found which are widely grown in NZ. The tart damson plums, from which jams and jellies are made, belong to this group, as do the firm sweet varieties that are dried to make prunes.
It is believed that the ancient peoples of the Middle East were the first to dry plums to make prunes. Prunes have been prepared for centuries in France, and the prunes from the region around Agen are still considered by many to be the best in the world. Today, orchards in California, which use Agen plums almost exclusively, yield a major share of the world's prunes. Prunes are also produced in some central European and South American countries.
Prunes are a good source of vitamins A and B, are high in fiber, and are rich in iron, calcium, and phosphorus. Their pulp is used as food for infants. Prunes are eaten raw, soaked or stewed alone or with other fruits, and are used in jams and desserts. The pulp, stewed fruit, and juice are packaged commercially. And of course, not only are they highly nutritious - they help to keep us ‘regular’!
The world's most popular heritage prune plum. Dark purple skin with light amber flesh that turns red when cooked. Freestone with fine textured, richly flavoured sweet flesh. Excellent for eating fresh, drying or bottling. Vigorous, cold hardy tree. Ripe around March. Self fertile. Deciduous.
'Stanley' is a European plum that when dried becomes a prune. The large dark purple-blue fruit ripen around February/March and have greenish-yellow grainy flesh. The fruit is sweet and juicy. Reliable heavy crops on a self fertile tree so no need for a partner. Happiest in the sun.