Little Jack Horner had the right idea, but the wrong season. The Fourth of July, not Christmas, is the best time to pull out a plum.
Plums are at their peak in late June and all of July, and this promises to be a peak year for plums. The California Tree Fruit Agreement, an industry council, predicts that more than 500 million pounds of plums will be shipped to markets in the United States and other countries.
According to the Corrine T. Netzer Encyclopedia of Food Values, an average plum (about 2.5 ounces) has 36 calories, 8.6 grams of carbohydrate, 0.4 grams of fat, no cholesterol, a trace of sodium and 0.4 grams of fiber. Plums have a fair amount of vitamin A, 213 International Units (4,000 to 5,000 is the recommended daily intake for adults), plus 113 milligrams of potassium.
Plums are often eaten out of hand or made into sauce, but in fact their sweet flavor complements all kinds of dishes, including seafood and meats. Plums are also good in salads and in baked items such as muffins. If you're looking for ways to fit more fruit into your family's diet, cooking with plums makes nutritional as well as taste sense. Fruit with meat dishes are common in the Middle East and Mediterranean regions; here's one from the industry council that draws on Greek tradition to produce a modern barbecue treat.
Plum souvlakia Serves six.
1 1/2 pounds boneless lamb, cut into 1-inch chunks
8 fresh plums, halved
2 onions, cut in wedges
1 green pepper, cut in 1-inch cubes
garlic-herb baste (recipe below)
Marinate lamb in garlic-herb baste at least 1 hour in refrigerator Thread lamb, plums, onions and green pepper on 10-inch or 12-inch metal skewers. Brush generously with baste. Barbecue over medium-hot coals 20 to 25 minutes, or until lamb is cooked, basting occasionally. Or, if desired, broil 12 minutes, turning once, or until lamb is cooked.
% Garlic-herb baste Makes 1 1/2 cups.
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well.