Prunes are so much more than a handy high-fiber snack. Add
them to salads, stuffings and baked goods, or dip them in melted
chocolate for a sweet treat.
Prunes are dried plums
that are commonly eaten out of hand for
a healthy snack. They're mostly made from the Agen plum, a sweet, firm
French variety introduced to the U.S. in 1856. In France, the pruneau
is a popular ingredient in
preserves and pastry prune fillings
and a savory accompaniment for game,
pork and pâté.
Prunes can be traced back to Roman times and they have long been a
popular winter fruit in northern Europe.
North Americans tend to think of prunes as primarily a digestive aid,
so in 2000, plum growers obtained FDA permission to label prunes "dried
plums" in hopes of boosting their image.
Varieties and Buying Tips
Prunes are best in the fall, but they are available
year-round. When purchasing, look for prunes that are slightly soft and
flexible. They should have blemish-free, bluish-black skins.
come in various sizes (small, medium, large, extra large and jumbo) and
also come packaged in whole, pitted and fruit essence flavored
Prune purée, or prune butter, can also be found in natural
food stores or your supermarket's jam or baking aisles. This fat-free
product can be used in place of butter and other fats to reduce
cholesterol and calories in home-baked goods.
Unopened packages of prunes can be stored in a cool, dry place for up
to six months. After opening, refrigerate packages for up to six
months, or freeze for up to one year.
Prune purée can be stored unopened at room temperature for up to one year. After opening, refrigerate and use within two weeks.
• Toss halved prunes with chopped apples
lettuce for a fruit-filled salad.
• Blend prunes with bananas
and lowfat milk
for a nutritious breakfast smoothie.
• Add chopped prunes to savory stuffings
and stews or sweet cookies and cakes.
• Enhance the flavor of dried plums by stewing them in orange juice
or spiced tea.
• Dip prunes in melted dark chocolate
• Add one tablespoon prune purée to each pound of cooked lean ground beef
to make it juicier.
Prune purée can be substituted in equal amounts for butter (and other
fats) in baked goods. While the purée can lighten fat content by 75 to
90%, it may also leave your baked goods a bit rubbery in texture. For
the best results, substitute only three-quarters