What are Prunes?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Prunes are dried plums.
Prunes are dried plums.

Prunes are a dried type of plum, usually the oblong, sweet, European plum called d’Agen. The d’Agen has since been cultivated in the United States, and was frequently just referred to as a prune. The term prune itself derives from the old French pronne, which simply meant plum.

Dried prunes are usually made from the d’Agen plum, or its modern descendants like the Stanley, the President, or the Italian plum. However the old French word for plum was still attached. Hence one often sees these deep blue plums referred to as prune plums, or simply prunes. Drying the prune plum was an excellent way to preserve the fruit. Modern English also refers to the dried appearance, as of the hands or toes after a bath, as pruned or pruney.

A glass of prune juice.
A glass of prune juice.

Dried prunes are a very sweet and moist dried fruit. They are usually black to brown in color and replete with wrinkles. They are either sun or machine dried, but then prior to packaging they are partially reconstituted. This accounts for their moistness as opposed to most other dried fruit.

As a food, the health benefits of prunes are significant. They have long been used to maintain healthy bowel activity, and are particularly helpful in ending constipation. A quarter cup serving of prunes contains a healthful 12% of one’s daily dietary fiber needs. As well, prunes are high in vitamin A, and potassium. The prune is also known for its antioxidant benefits, containing a fair amount of beta-carotene.

Prunes may be eaten to help relieve constipation.
Prunes may be eaten to help relieve constipation.

The prune can be eaten as is, or stewed to further plump them up. Stewed prunes with a little half and half or cream was once thought a pleasant dessert, as was the popular prune whip. Because of the use of prunes and prune juice to help with constipation, prunes began to bear undeserved negative connotations.

This has led in recent years to the prune being remarketed as the dried plum. For those who have always enjoyed prunes, the renaming seems somewhat silly. But for those who have negative associations with the prune, the “new” dried plum may tempt someone to try this sweet dried fruit.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

bookworm

Prunes do not refer only to dry plums. Prunes are also fresh plums such as Italian prunes (plums). There is little difference between plums and prunes. One difference is that the pit of the prune separates from the flesh much easier then it does on a plum.

Most prunes are grown specifically for drying, with the exception of the Italian prune. Maybe that is why we kind of associate prunes with being dried fruit. The Italian prune has purple flesh, and the shape of the prune is elongated.

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    • Prunes are dried plums.
      Prunes are dried plums.
    • A glass of prune juice.
      A glass of prune juice.
    • Prunes may be eaten to help relieve constipation.
      Prunes may be eaten to help relieve constipation.
    • Prunes are particularly helpful for treating constipation.
      Prunes are particularly helpful for treating constipation.
    • A blender may be used to create prune whip.
      A blender may be used to create prune whip.
    • Prunes can be added to salads for flavor and texture.
      Prunes can be added to salads for flavor and texture.
    • Drinking warm water may aid in the digestion of prunes and relieve constipation.
      Drinking warm water may aid in the digestion of prunes and relieve constipation.