South African plums are available in all major UK retailers from January to March. Some of the fantastic varieties to look out for during the season are:
Red or purple skin with yellow flesh - varieties include Fortune, Laetitia, Pioneer, Sapphire, and Southern Belle as well as Flavor King, which has a distinctive sweet bubblegum flavour.
Yellow skin and yellow flesh – popular varieties include Songold and African Pride™, which have a sweet taste and a delicious juicy texture.
How to choose: Look for plums that are soft on the outside but firm on the inside. Plums are best picked mature but not fully ripe.
How to ripen: To ripen a plum, place in a brown paper bag at room temperature. Plums are ripe and ready to eat when they give off a sweet plum aroma and are soft to the touch.
How to eat: Even though plums are mostly consumed fresh, they are delicious baked in pies or cakes or used in jams, chutneys and sauces. Plums also make a great accompaniment to poultry and pork dishes. You can find lots of delicious recipe ideas here.
Health and nutrition:
The high vitamin C content of plums helps our bodies to absorb iron and to neutralise free radicals that can otherwise contribute to the development of diseases such as cancer. Plums also contain quercetin, which also helps to tackle free radicals in the body. Other cancer fighting molecules that plums contain are called Anthocyanins and are believed to have powerful antioxidant properties. Plums also contain other neutralising substances called phenols, which can help reduce oxygen damage to the body’s cells – the cause of ageing.
[Source: The Composition of Foods, sixth summary edition, by McCance and Widdowson]