Plums are a member of the rosaceae family prunus domestica which also includes peaches, nectarines and almonds. Plums were domesticated in China more than 2000 years ago and have been noted in historic records dating back more than 2500 years. Wild plums flourished throughout the old world, there area number of schools of thought regarding the history of domesticated plums they appear to have originated in Asia and the Caucasus near the Caspian Sea.
They arrived in Rome around 200BC, plums spread north to Europe with the returning crusades over a 1000 years ago and west to the Americas as early as the late 1700’s. Many cultures have embraced plums both fresh and dried, around 12 million tons are produced annually half of which are grown in China alone.
Plums are particularly suited to temperate climates, chilling through winter is necessary to produce fruit, though frost in spring will damage blossoms and will impact on fruit production, raised areas with full to filtered sun exposure produces best results. Plum trees can survive drought and floods but best results are achieved with moderate soil moisture levels. There are around 2000 different species of plum growing in Europe the Americas, Africa, China and South East Asia and last but not least New Zealand and Australia; trees may grow as high as 12 metres and spread a similar amount but are generally pruned to around 5-6 metres for practical harvesting. Plums vary in colour from a dark purple almost black to yellow or green when ripe, they may be sweet, tart or a variation between. Plums are a rich source of antioxidants that neutralise free radicals thereby slowing the aging process, plums are also a rich source of vitamin C with its many health promoting properties also sorbitol and isatian for digestion; there are many other health benefits to be gained by adding plums to our diet.
I constantly write about the health benefits of various natural foods as I am writing this I am reminded of a plum incident Christmas 1996; I was at a family get together on the shores of Lake Taupo when one of the families toddlers reached up to the fruit bowl and took a plum, there was a mass rush of adults to stop the toddler from biting the plum. This mad rush was a result of a family tragedy in 1948 when my brother and twin sister of 20 months were being wheeled around a fruiterer’s store; my sister was given a banana and my brother Robert a plum by the store owner.
Robert choked on the plum stone, the fruiterer’s store was immediately adjacent to the Doctors surgery they could not dislodge the plum stone as it had a barb at both ends which is very unusual and it could not be dislodged.
Almost 50 years later the memory of that tragedy was still fresh in everyone’s mind.
2 kilograms red plums
1 large onion finely diced
1 litre vinegar (malt)
500gm brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon mustard powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 litre water
(garlic can also be added)
Boil all ingredients together until pulped approx 1½ to 2 hours.
Strain through sieve and return to heat and thicken with cornflour.