Plum is also known as gage is a stone fruit placed in the genus Prunus and subgenus Prunus. Plum can be distinguished from other members of family like peaches, cherries and bird cherries by its shoot which bears a terminal bud and the side buds are solitary. The stem is short and bears 1-5 flowers in groups. The fruit is characterized by the presence of one groove running across the surface with a stone like seed. Mature plum fruits have a dusty-white coating which gives them a glaucous appearance which can be rubbed off. This dusty-white coating is due to the layer of the epicuticular wax and is known as wax bloom. Dried fruits are known as plums or prunes but presently plum word is most appropriately used for them as prunes are other types of plums. The name plum has originated from a Latin word.
The fruit is sweet in taste with tart skin. It can be eaten fresh or may be used in making jams and other preparations as the fruit is juicy. Plum juice can be fermented to yield plum wine and after distillation it produces brandy known as Rakia in Eastern Europe. In Central England a cider like alcoholic beverage known as plum jerkum is produced from these fruits. Dried plum fruits are also sweet in taste, juicy and rich in efficient amounts of antioxidants. They along with prunes are popular for their laxative effects. This effect may be contributed due to the presence of a large number of chemical compounds namely dietary fiber, sorbitol and isatin. Prunes and prune juice are often used in treating some of the problems associated with the digestive system. Prunes can be beneficial in treating constipation also.
Dried and salted plums are often used as snacks and are sometimes known as salao. Various flavours of dried plums are available at Chinese grocers as well as all over the world. Pickled plums are also available at the Asian as well as the specialty stores. Like other members of the rose family they also contain cyanogenic glycosides, including amygdalin. These compounds upon metabolism decompose into sugar molecule and yield hydrogen cyanide gas. The seeds are not toxic but can affect human health if consumed in large proportion. Prune kernel oil is obtained from the inner layer of pit. They are available in a wide variety of sizes and colours ranging from red, yellow, white or green. They also produce flowers in the early spring and if conditions remain favourable about 50% of the flowers will produce successful fruits. If the weather conditions tend to remain dry the fruits drop as young green buds and may also suffer from fungal infections like brown rot. Plum is used as food by many larvae of Lepidotera.
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