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Articles - Gourmet Pleasures:

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Fruits of summer: mirabelles and reine claude greengages

Mirabelle plums and reine claude greengages are much-loved summer stone fruit. Originally from Asia, they are widely grown in Europe, especially in France. But they will grow well in other areas where the summers are warm and sunny.

Mirabelle plums are as big as large cherries; they're vivid yellow tinged with red and pink. Mirabelles are just the right size to pop in your mouth fresh from the tree. But they are also delicious bottled or made into sweet jam. Although they're small, they're easy to process as the stone comes out easily.

Reine claude: green, sweet and spicy

Reine claude greengages are named after the French queen Claudia, the daughter of Louis XII and wife of Francis I of France, who was said to love these delicious small plums. Greengages, as the name implies, are greenish yellow or reddish green even when they're fully ripe. smallish green fruit. The stone doesn't come out easily, but the sweet, spicy flavour more than justifies the effort.

Versatile and easy to use

As an alternative to eating them raw, both fruits are delicious in a fruit salad, where they combine well with gooseberries, blackberries and morello cherries. Because they are so juicy, they stew well and keep a good flavour when cooked. If you want to make a tart, it's a good idea to sprinkle ground nuts or breadcrumbs on the pastry base to soak up some of the juice. Both mirabelles and greengages freeze well. Simply halve them, remove the stones and spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet or something similar to freeze. Once frozen they can be filled into a freezer bag for storage and they will stay easy to separate.

Buying, quality and health benefits

The best place to buy mirabelles and greengages is at a farmer's market or in your local vegetable shop, where you're most likely to be buying freshly picked, super-ripe, local fruit. Check that the fruit isn't damaged, that it smalls good and that it gives slightly when pressed. Mirabelles have a higher sugar content than any other European plum, while greengages score when it comes to dietary fibre. Both fruits contain a lot of vitamin C, beta carotene and potassium, greengages are also a good source of iron.

Source: Heike Kreutz, www.aid.de