Prunes are actually the dried version of European plums and are also known as dried plum. In India, the prune (both dried and fresh) is known as Alu Bukhara in Hindi. Sweet with a deep taste and a sticky chewy texture, prunes are not only fun to eat but they are also highly nutritious. As with other dried fruits, they are available year round. Prunes are used in cooking both sweet and savory dishes. Stewed prunes, a compote, are a dessert.
Fresh prunes- Fresh plums that are marketed as "prunes" have an oval shape and a more easily removed pit. Fresh prunes reach the market earlier than fresh plums and are usually smaller in size.
Deseeded prunes- slit the prunes longitudinally and remove the seeds with your hands . Pre packaged deseeded prunes and prune candies are available in the market.
Dried prunes- The dried fruit is wrinkly in texture, and chewy on the inside.
Chopped prunes- Place the prunes on a chopping board and chop it into small pieces. Can be finely chopped or roughly chopped or chopped into big chunks as per recipe requirement.
Sliced prunes- Slice using a sharp knife by cutting vertically across the cutting board. Slice them thinly or thickly as the recipe requirement.
Prune paste- Place washed and pitted prunes in a blender or food processor, and process at high speed until the mixture is smooth.Use immediately, or place in an airtight container and store for upto 3 weeks in the refrigerator.
Prune Juice- Prune juice is made by softening prunes through steaming and then putting them through a pulper to create a watery puree. Prunes and their "juice" contain the natural laxative dihydrophenylisatin.
How to select
Prunes are sold either with their pits or already pitted. The form you choose should depend upon your personal preference and recipe needs. Ideally, you should purchase prunes that are sold in transparent containers so that you can evaluate them for quality. They should be plump, shiny, relatively soft and free of mold. If the packages are opaque, ensure that they are tightly sealed so that the prunes will not have lost any moisture. As with any other dried fruit, try to purchase prunes that are not processed with food preservatives such as sulfites.
· If you have prunes that are extremely dry, soaking them in hot water for a few minutes will help to refresh them. If you are planning on cooking the prunes, soaking them in water or juice beforehand will reduce the cooking time.
· Serve stewed prunes with rosemary-scented braised lamb and enjoy this Middle Eastern inspired meal.
· Serve stewed or soaked prunes on top of pancakes and waffles.
· Combine diced dried prunes with other dried fruits and nuts to make homemade trail mix.
· Prunes make a delicious addition to poultry stuffing.
How to store
Prunes should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry and dark place where they will keep for several months. Storing them in the refrigerator will extend their freshness, allowing them to keep for about six months. Regardless of where you store them, make sure that when you open the container, you reseal it tightly to prevent the prunes from losing moisture.
· Prunes have high content of unique phytonutrients called neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acid. These substances found in prunes and plums are classified as phenols, and their function as antioxidants has been well documented.
· Prunes are a good source of vitamin A, dietary fiber, potassium and copper.
· Prunes are well known for their ability to prevent constipation. In addition to providing bulk and decreasing the transit time of fecal matter, thus decreasing the risk of colon cancer and hemorrhoids, prunes' insoluble fiber also provides food for the "friendly" bacteria in the large intestine.
· Because of all of these wonderful benefits to the digestive system, prunes have become a common treat of the elderly.