Recently, the California Prune Board made a request to the FDA. They asked that the name “prunes” be changed to “dried plums”. That is what a prune is anyway. The board found that people (especially younger folks), were so turned off by the word prune, they refused to consume them.
The FDA granted the name change, and sales have actually improved. This is great news because prunes are a wonderful source of nutrients. The sundried fruit is loaded with vitamins B6 and K, iron, calcium, and fiber. There is no better fruit to help keep digestion on track or to fight osteoporosis.
But it can be confusing as to where we keep them. Is the fruit good in the cupboard or should prunes be refrigerated?
No. For the most part, prunes do not need to be refrigerated. This is because dried fruit has less moisture, so it doesn’t spoil as quickly as other fruits.
An unopened container of prunes will keep just fine for 6 to 12 months if stored in a cool, dark, dry place.
Once opened, the prunes should be placed in an airtight container and placed in a cool place outside of any sunlight.
According to the USDA, you can store prunes in the refrigerator if you want to ensure top quality and taste. They state that if you live in a hot and humid area, the prunes should be placed in the refrigerator.
Can You Freeze Prunes?
Yes. It’s perfectly fine to freeze prunes once. They can be frozen for up to 18 months. However, they should be consumed within 12 months for the best quality.
Put the prunes in an airtight container, label them with the date, and place them in the back of the freezer. Do not refreeze your prunes. The constant change in moisture will cause them to degrade quickly and lose their taste and firmness.
Do Prunes Go Bad?
Though prunes will last a very long time, they DO go bad eventually. Depending on how you store them, prunes can last anywhere from 6 to 18 months.
How To Tell If Your Prunes Have Gone Bad?
Good prunes will have a deep purple, almost black color. They will be firm to the touch, but have a bit of give. The most obvious sign of a prune that’s past its prime is mold.
Because of their lack of moisture, prunes won’t always mold and if they do, it will take a long time. More common signs of a bad prune are:
- liquefication (watery, slimy)
- squishy and soft
- discoloration (especially brown blotches)
- bad smell
What Is The White Stuff On My Prunes?
Don’t worry, it’s not mold. It’s sugar! Often, when prunes have been around for a while, the natural sugar contained in the fruit will separate, rise, and settle on the skin of the prune in a crystallized form.
There’s nothing wrong with the prune and it’s perfectly safe to eat. If it bothers you, simply rinse the prune. If you’d like to avoid the white stuff completely, it helps to store the prunes in the refrigerator.
Can Prunes Be Cooked?
Prunes can absolutely be cooked. In fact, their sweet, earthy flavor is a fantastic and nutritious addition to a great many dishes. There is, of course, the old standby, stewed prunes. This is terrific if you want the pruney benefits but don’t care for the chewy texture.
But these are not your grandma’s prunes. People have found some very creative and delicious ways to incorporate prunes into recipes, including:
- homemade health bars
- stews and soups
- braised pork and prunes
- spiced cabbage and prunes
- bacon, sausage, and prune rolls
- chocolate and prune cheesecake
Just to name a few. Prune purée is also a great first food for babies. While prune energy balls are a fun way to get older kids in on the benefits of the prune.
Just remember that once the prune is cooked it should be placed in the fridge and used within 2-3 days.
How Many Prunes Should You Eat Per Day?
The USDA recommendation is 4-5 prunes a day. Since prunes range in size, you could also go by 1/4 to 1/2 a cup per day. Eating more than the recommended amount could cause some gas and bloating.
How Exactly Does A Plum Become A Prune?
We know that plums used to be set out in the sun to dry out. Things are a bit different now, but still fairly simple. Once the plums are ripe, they are picked by hand or harvested by a machine.
Next, they are sorted and immediately sent to the “drying facility.” Once there, they are cleaned and put into a drying tunnel where the moisture will be evaporated and the former plums can be packaged as prunes (or dried plums).
Do Packaged Prunes Contain Extra Sugar?
No. Prune manufacturers do not add extra sugar to their fruit. They don’t need to. The fact is that prunes are 50% sugar. The naturally occurring sorbitol is packed inside your prunes.
Not to worry though, sorbitol is not absorbed by the body like refined (packaged) sugar. So it doesn’t have the same effects.
Are Prunes Gluten Free?
Many people are concerned about their food containing gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and other grains. A lot of folks do not react well to products containing gluten.
The great news is prunes are 100% gluten free. So, no worries if gluten is an issue, prunes and prune juice can be apart of your diet.