Sunday, February 5, 2012


. . . And other dried fruits. Why, oh why, do people in our country disdain them? For centuries, humans have prized them for their deliciousness, versatility, practicality, economy, simplicity, elegance. Not to mention their nutrients, which scientists are still learning about!

They store incredibly well and don’t need refrigeration. They’re right there on the shelf in your pantry, ready for you to need a quick dessert, or something to put in your muffins.

You can cook them or eat them like candy, just as they are. You can put them into sweet dishes, or you can use them in savory recipes such as curries, salads, meat dishes, stuffing, stews.

Go to the California Dried Plums official website, and read about all this stuff. They’ve got recipes and lots more. Good lord, the nutrients! Antioxidants, phytochemicals, potassium, the good kinds of sugars, vitamins, and lots more. And dietary fiber.

Actually, it’s a combination of the fiber and certain phytochemicals that make prunes so “gentle and effective.” Americans have become embarrassingly puerile about prunes, laughing about constipation and the elderly. This idiocy has prompted the California plum growers to change their marketing so that now, they’re selling “dried plums.” But Americans are aging, and constipation isn’t funny when you have it. And what a tasty, natural alternative to synthetic, pharmaceutical laxatives from the drugstore!

Eating any dried fruits, of course you have to be grown-up about it. Edward Brown put it this way in his wonderful introduction to vegetarian food, Tassajara Cooking: “One thing to remember when eating dried fruit is that it’s easy to overdo it. Often people who wouldn’t consider eating ten plums sit down and eat ten prunes, or they eat two, three, or four stewed dried pears when they wouldn’t eat more than one fresh pear. Dried fruit can have a pretty strong effect.”

In other words, don’t blame the food for your overindulgence in it. (Would you drink a whole jar of habanero salsa and then blame the salsa for the aftermath?) Also remember that fiber is the friend of anyone trying to lose weight. Fiber makes you feel full. Slim-Fast is basically a fiber drink!

After the indulgence of the holidays, I’m wanting culinary simplicity. And the prune is a perfect Opulent Opossum subject: humble, pure, overlooked, fabulous. A breakfast with stewed prunes plus low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese is just the ticket these days. And one place to go for prune-recipe inspiration is old cookbooks that predate America’s childish equation of prunes with poo-poo. It’s time to start associating them with health and feeling great!


lisa said...

I love dreid apricots/peaches and a few others...In fact I even got my boyfriend to like them!:P

They are not truly forgotten or pushed aside.

Julianna Schroeder said...

Thanks, Lisa! I think that all fruits have been sort of forgotten by many in the United States in favor of prepackaged, processed, sugary---whatever! As if Madison Avenue has convinced us that unless it's packaged and has come out of a factory, it has "less value." To me, it's an Op Op thing, too: the opulence of simple things.

Thanks again for the comment,