Dried plums have a range of applications in food processing. They are high in fiber, a natural source of sorbitol, have high levels of malic acid and have a low glycemic index. Dried plums also have significant antioxidant activity. Research conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture attributes this to the phenolic composition of dried plums. These compounds help maintain shelflife and also provide some antimicrobial action.

“Dried plums are available in different forms,” said James Degen, consultant to the California Dried Plum Board, during the presentation entitled “Dried Plums: Natural Solution to Maintaining Shelflife,” at Prepared Foods’ 2007 R&D Applications Seminar-Chicago. “These include powders consisting of dried plums or dried plums with other fruits, purees (made with dried plums alone or with other fruits) and juice concentrates.” He went on to further explain that plum powder is 99% dried plums, to which calcium stearate or other compounds are added as anti-caking agents. It has a low pH (<4.0) and low moisture. It is typically used by re-hydrating with two parts of water or another fluid. Dried plums may be used in meat and poultry products (where the presence of plums contributes unique antimicrobial activities), baked foods, energy bars or snacks, confections and sauces, marinades or rubs. Functional benefits include shelflife extension, fat reduction, calorie reduction, enhanced flavor profiles, color enhancement (contributes a caramel color) and a low glycemic index. According to the California Dried Plum Board, the addition of dried plums to formulations is a cost-effective means of producing quality products with significant health benefits.

Dried plums have been used in whole-grain breads and rolls, muffins, soft cookies, cakes, brownies, energy bars and snacks. They are very compatible with chocolate and other fruits. In baked foods, dried plums and dried plum products act as natural humectants, thanks to their high fiber and sorbitol. These compounds attract and retain moisture during the baking process. The use of dried plums also allows food formulators to reduce fat levels. The soluble and insoluble fibers form a stable film much like fats do during mixing and leavening. The sorbitol helps retain moisture. The addition of dried plum will also help enhance shelflife.

The applications in meat and poultry are also quite interesting. Research conducted by Jimmy Keeton, Ph.D., at Texas A&M University, concluded that dried plums and plum products bind moisture. This helps ensure that products, especially those formulated from lean meats, maintain moisture and mouthfeel. Work by Dan Fung, Ph.D. and his colleagues at Kansas State University, has demonstrated that the addition of dried plums to ground beef and other meat mixtures can control foodborne pathogens and reduce total counts, which can enhance both safety and shelflife.

Dried plum and plum products may also be used in sauces, marinades and rubs. Dried plum powder has been used as the base for a complete flavor system. In these types of products, dried plum products provide antimicrobial activity, help retain moisture, enhance flavor and will extend protein shelflife and eating quality.

Dried plums, whether they are used as whole plums, pieces, powders or concentrates, can be used in a wide range of products and processes. They are a healthy alternative to fats and sugars, because of a low glycemic index, high fiber and high levels of sorbitol.

For more information:
California Dried Plum Board, Sacramento, Calif.
James Degen,  916-565-6232