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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.
Prunes come in various sizes (small, medium, large, extra large and jumbo) and also come packaged in whole, pitted and fruit essence flavored varieties.
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.
Storage TipsUnopened 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.
Usage Tips• Toss halved prunes with chopped apples and romaine lettuce for a fruit-filled salad.
• Blend prunes with bananas and lowfat milk or yogurt 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.