HONEY HEART PLUM
The month of July rings in the summery fruit season characterized by sweet, sour, colorful and, best of all, juicy. Strolling through city farmer’s markets reveals a welcome variety of shapes, colors, sizes and tastes with some of the best varietals of fruit unavailable at supermarkets. One of our favorite summer fruits is the appropriately named Honey Heart Plum. Its shape is usually a heart although, as with the emotional heart – differences are to be found. It’s skin is purple with a cloudy whitish haze that disappears when wet and reappears when dry. Once again, it’s name gives a strong clue as to it’s taste. Normally plums have an electric tension between the outer skin and sweet inner flesh. The Honey Heart Plum has much less sourness – due to lower overall acidity – and a richer, honey-like richness to its deeply-hued violet flesh. It is possibly the best balanced plum for eating raw. Even when slightly unripe it lacks the sour notes most often found in other plums. It is very juicy but fortunately doesn’t get too soft even when too ripe. Overall the Honey Heart Plum is as close to perfect as a plum can get for enjoying on a hot summer day.
Once again, it’s name gives a strong clue as to it’s taste. Normally plums have an electric tension between the outer skin and sweet inner flesh. The Honey Heart Plum has much less sourness – due to lower overall acidity – and a richer, honey-like richness to its deeply-hued blood and violet flesh. It is possibly the best balanced plum for eating raw. Even when slightly unripe it lacks the mouth-puckering sour notes often found in other plum varietals. The soft interior flesh enveloping its small pit is delectably luscious with vanilla overtones. Fragrant, subtle and it has remarkably distinctive rich flavors all framed by a tart skin.It is very juicy but fortunately doesn’t get too soft even when too ripe. Overall the Honey Heart Plum is as close to perfect as a plum can get for enjoying on a hot summer day.
HISTORY OF PLUM FRUIT
The Honey Heart Plum also known as Elephant Heart Plu is a freestone fruit that is sometimes called the King of Japanese plums. A Japanese cultivar with the botanical name P. salicina it is a member of the genus Prunus which includes stone fruit such as cherries, apricots, peaches and almonds. The Elephant Heart plum requires pollination from other cultivars as it is not self-fertile.
The Honey or Elephant Heart plum was developed by pioneering horticulturist Luther Burbank in the early 20th Century in Sonoma County, CA. Burbank focused on bringing Asian and European varieties of high quality fruits, specifically apricots, cherries and plums into his plant breeding program. The genetic diversity of these new species led him to develop new varieties that would thrive in the growing regions of California. Through the method of hand pollination, the Elephant Heart plum was created from a classic Japanese plum variety. Today it is grown by a small number of specialist farms because its sensitive flesh requires hand-picking and hand-packing to prevent bruising.
GROWING HONEY HEART PLUM
The Elephant Heart plum is grown by some home gardeners and only a few fruit farmers – those with small farms that practice hand picking and packing. Honey Heart Plum bloom and ripen earlier and tend to have larger crops. They are not generally self-pollinated and can be tricky to grow in areas with late frosts but are superb for fresh eating. They are the favored fresh eating varieties in the United states being larger, firmer fleshed, and rounder than European plums. Japanese plum trees have rougher bark, more persistent spurs, and more numerous flowers than European plums. They are also more precocious, disease resistant, and vigorous than European plums. Japanese plum flavor ranges from sweet to tart.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF HONEY HEART PLUM
Succulent, tangy and sweet, wonderfully delicious – learning how to eat loquat fruit that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants is a pleasurable chore.
Plums are low in calories (only 46 calories per 100 g) and contain no saturated fats. Additionally, they hold plenty of health promoting compounds, minerals, and vitamins. Plums are also chock full of healthy flavonoid poly phenolic antioxidants such as lutein, cryptoxanthin and zea-xanthin. Inside your body these compounds play an important role in promoting anti-aging and protecting against various diseases. Certain health benefiting compounds present in the plums such as dietary fiber, sorbitol, and isatin has been known to help regulate smooth functioning of the digestive system, and thereby, help relieve constipation problems.
HOW TO BUY HONEY HEART PLUM
Pick plums that are tender but not too soft. Even a not-quite-ripened Honey Heart Plum is delicious and patience until its ripens is not a necessary requirement. Hoeny Heart Plum season begins in early July and runs until August in Japan whereas if you live in North America you will need to wait until late August to find the Elephant Heart Plum. Fruits are ready for harvesting once their skin turns yellow and their flesh become soft in texture. A light squeeze can determine the ripeness of a plum. The fruits should be carefully picked up from the bunch to avoid bruising. When shopping at a store look for plums featuring a dark purple skin color with a mottled white haze and a fragrant aroma. Don’t be afraid to smell it as this is one of the most reliable ways to gauge a fruit’s ripeness. They should be devoid of any wrinkles, cuts and patches on the skin. Fruits with spots and bruises tend to spoil quickly.
HOW TO STORE HONEY HEART PLUM
Slightly hard but mature plums can be kept at room temperature until they are ripen. Once ready, they can be placed inside the refrigerator but should be brought to room temperature before being consumed in order to enjoy their rich natural flavor. They should be eaten within a week after picking. Elephant Heart plums yield a short shelf-life when ripe.
HOW TO EAT HONEY HEART PLUM
When ripe the peels come off easily with the edge of a knife. From that point you can take one of two approaches. Either peel the flesh with a knife 2-3 cm deep and leaving the centre seeds in place – or cut in half and remove the interior with a melon ball tool. Either method will get you what you want – the flesh without skin or seeds. Honey Heart Plums can be best enjoyed eaten fresh when ripe after running under water. The tension the sour skin gives the sweet interior flesh is highly pleasurable with this plum.
COOKING HONEY HEART PLUM
Wash Plums under cool water before consuming to remove any surface dirt or pesticide residues. The pulp just underneath the skin is sweet whereas the skin is mildly sour. The only time you will want underripe plums is if you are making jam. In this case blanche the plums for a 20 seconds in boiling water then plunge immediately in ice water. The skins should be easy to remove at that stage.
Plum flesh easily disintegrates when cooked so slow and low temperature is the key to keeping its shape and texture. One way to successfully achieve this is to create a simple syrup first and then pour it over the cut fruit and leave it over night. This is the confit method of poaching fruit that allows slow osmosis to cook the fruit without damaging its cell structure.
A modern take on this approach requires more equipment but achieves equally excellent results. Sous-vide method is similar to the more traditional method with the diffence being the contents are placed under vacuum pressure in a plastic bag before being submerged in a water bath at low temperature. This method gives the cook the most control and results in the least damage to the fruit. Additionally, any flavorings added to the syrup, such as vanilla, will be absorbed better into the fruit than would be by traditional confit.
RECIPES FOR HONEY HEART PLUM
Honey or Elephant Heart plums are best utilized for fresh eating. They are excellent as fruit salad ingredients or for compotes, reductions and syrups. Elephant Heart plums can be used in desserts such as cakes, tarts and pies however it is best to first poach them so that their texture is maintained and they do not bleed liquid into the pastry or cake. Flavors that complement plums include vanilla, cinnamon, licorice and chiles.
Peeled fruits are eaten fresh or mixed with other tropical fruits in a simple fruit salad.
Plum fruit is also made into jam, jelly and poached in sugar syrup with vanilla, cinnamon to make delicious loquat fruit syrup. Adequate pectin makes plums a great candidate for making jam, jelly, and chutney. Firm, slightly immature fruits are best for making pies or tarts and can be substituted for apple, pear or apricot in your recipes.