Food Topic: A Pear of Plums
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Little Jack Horner sat in the corner
Eating his
Christmas pie,
He put in his thumb and pulled out a plum
And said "What a good boy am I!"

 

One of the unique things about plums is that there are so many varieties available. Not only do over 2,000 varieties of plums exist, but over 100 are available in the United States alone. So, if you are looking for a juicy, sweet tasting fruit that comes in a panorama of colors, plums are for you.  Although usually round, plums can also be oval or heart-shaped. The skins of plums can be red, purple, blue-black, red, green, yellow or amber, while their flesh comes in hues such as yellow, green and pink and orange—a virtual rainbow.

Plums are relatives of the peach, nectarine and almond. They are all considered "drupes," fruits that have a hard stone pit surrounding their seeds. When plums are dried, they become the fruit we know as prunes. They are a good source of vitamin C.

If you want to purchase plums that are ripe and ready to eat, look for ones that yield to gentle pressure and that are slightly soft at their tip. While you can also purchase plums that are firm and ripen them at home, avoid those that are excessively hard as they will be immature and will probably not ripen well.  Good quality plums will feature a rich color and may still have a slight whitish "bloom," reflecting that they have not been over handled. They should also be free of punctures, bruises or any signs of decay. Plums are generally available in the marketplace from May through October.

Plums that are not yet ripe can be left at room temperature. As this fruit tends to mature quickly, check on them in the next day or two to ensure that they do not become overripe. Once they are ripe, plums can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. While plums can be frozen, to ensure maximum taste remove their stone pits before placing them in the freezer or canning them.

Tips for Preparing Plums:

Plums are delicious eaten as is. If the plums have been in the refrigerator, allow them to approach room temperature before eating them as this will help them attain the maximum juiciness and sweetness. If you want to first remove the pit before eating or cooking, cut the plum in half lengthwise, gently twist the halves in opposite directions and then carefully take out the pit.

Plums can also be used in a variety of recipes and are usually baked or poached. Stir into coffee cakes, quick bread dough's, sauté in a bit of vegetable oil and a pinch of brown sugar for topping hot cereal, pancakes and waffles.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

·        Make pizza with a twist by broiling sliced plums, goat cheese, walnuts and sage on top of a whole wheat pita bread or pizza crust.

·        Blend stewed plums and combine with yogurt and honey for wonderful cold soup.

·        Add plum slices to cold cereal.

·        Plums dry well and make a great, chewy snack.

 

 

Pears are juicy and sweet, with a soft, buttery yet somewhat grainy texture, with a white to cream-colored flesh.  Although the season for pears runs from August through October, there are varieties of pears available year-round because of the seasonal variations amongst the different varieties

While there are thousands of varieties of pears with each differing in size, shape, color, taste and storage qualities, the Bosc, Bartlett, Anjou and Comice pears are the most commonly available types in the United States. Varieties such as Conference, Passe Crassane and Packham, which are popular in other countries, are also becoming more widely available.

Pears are members of the rose family and related to the apple and the quince. Pears generally have a large round bottom that tapers towards the top. Depending upon the variety, their paper-thin skins can either be yellow, green, brown, red or a combination of two or more of these colors. Like apples, pears have a core that features several seeds. Pears generally have a large round bottom that tapers towards the top. Depending upon the variety, their paper-thin skins can either be yellow, green, brown, red or a combination of two or more of these colors.

Pears are  high in vitamin C and copper. Pears are also high in fiber. 

Since pears are very perishable once they are ripe, the pears you find at the market will generally be unripe and will require a few days of maturing. Look for pears that are firm, but not too hard. They should have a smooth skin that is free of bruises or mold. The color of good quality pears may not be uniform as some may feature russetting where there are brown-speckled patches on the skin; this is an acceptable characteristic and oftentimes reflects a more intense flavor. Avoid pears that are punctured or have dark soft spots.

Pears should be left at room temperature to ripen. Once their skin yields to gentle pressure, they are ripe and ready to be eaten. If you will not be consuming the pears immediately once they have ripened, you can place them in the refrigerator where they will remain fresh for a few days. If you want to hasten the ripening process, place them in a paper bag, turning them occasionally, and keep them at room temperature. Storing pears in sealed plastic bags or restricted spaces where they are in too close proximity to each other should be avoided since they will have limited exposure to oxygen, and the ethylene gas that they naturally produce will greatly increase their ripening process, causing them to degrade. Pears should also be stored away from other strong smelling foods, whether on the countertop on in the refrigerator, as they tend to absorb smells.

Tips for Preparing Pears:

Fresh pears are delicious eaten as is after gently washing the skin by running it under cool water and patting it dry. Since their skin provides some of their fiber, it is best to not peel the fruit but eat the entire pear. To cut the pear into pieces, you can use an apple corer, cutting from the fruit's base to remove the core, and then cutting it into the desired sizes and shapes. Once cut, pears will oxidize quickly and turn a brownish color. You can help to prevent this by applying some lemon, lime or orange juice to the flesh.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

Combine pears with mustard greens, watercress, leeks and walnuts for a delicious salad.

Serve pears with goat or bleu cheese for a delightful dessert.

Add chopped pears, grated ginger and honey to millet porridge for a pungently sweet breakfast treat.

Core pears, and poach in apple juice or wine.

 

Bartlett Pear and Spinach Salad
Yield: 6 side salads

Salad:

1 (10 oz) package fresh spinach

3 large Bartlett pears, cored and sliced

4 strips bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

½ c walnuts, toasted @ 350°F for 10 minutes, cooled

½ c dried cherries or craisins

½ c gorgonzola cheese (opt)

 

Dressing:

1/3 c olive oil
2 T seasoned rice vinegar (found in the ethnic section of the grocery)
½ tsp minced fresh garlic
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp Dijon mustard

 

Combine spinach, pears, avocado, bacon, pine nuts, cranberries and mushrooms in salad bowl. In a small bowl, whisk all the dressing ingredients together and drizzle over salad and toss.  


 

 

 

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