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Plums are in the same stone fruit family (Prunus) as peaches, cherries, and apricots. There are also many hybrids within the family. The most popular hybrid is the Pluot, which is 75% plum and 25% apricot, and which, many say, is a finer fruit than either of its parents.

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Plums are high in sugar, and have no starch. Consequently, they will not become sweeter after being picked; but their pectic enzymes will dissolve some of the pectin, causing them to soften. The softening can be halted with refrigerating the fruit.

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Origins and Culture

Wild plums were first cultivated by the Assyrians over 2,000 years ago, and then adopted by the Romans, who hybridized them. Pliny wrote of the huge numbers of cross-breeds available. The Chinese also cultivated plums early. It was the Crusaders who are credited with taking the plum to Europe, where it was first cultivated in the gardens of medieval monasteries in England. About 1369, Chaucer described one such garden with its ploumes. During the Middle Ages, the word plum virtually meant any dried fruit. This usage is still seen in the plum puddings and plum cakes, which often do not contain any plums at all.
In North America, wild plums were reportedly eaten by Native Americans prior to the arrival of the Europeans, and today the wild variety is still consumed, although mostly as jam or jelly.

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Nutritional and Medicinal Properties

The prune has a higher dietary value than the plum in calories, protein carbohydrates, fiber and all the vitamins except for vitamin C. Prunes have a generous amount of iron, potassium, calcium and phosphorus which makes them great for an energy boost snack. The plum, however, has fewer calories and carbohydrates but lots of vitamin C and water content, as well as all the above mentioned in smaller amounts.

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Basic Cooking Instructions

The plum, however, is a sweet, juicy fruit that can be eaten in many ways. Freshly picked ripe fruit can be made into jams, jellies, preserves, pies, cakes, tarts. Plums are also juiced for beverages and can be fermented into plum wine; when distilled, plums produce a brandy known in Eastern Europe as Slivovitz.
In its dried form, the plum is known as a prune. Prunes are sweet and chewy, and they provide a very high dietary nutritional content. Prune juice is often used to help the functioning of the digestive system and also contains several antioxidants that may slow aging. Prune kernel oil is made from the fleshy inner part of the pit of the plum and is claimed to be healthier than your average oil.

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