It’s August and here in Europe the summer is in full swing. And with summer come the delicious varieties of stone fruit.
The latest buzz word in the stone fruit world is of course Queen Garnet. Presumably so-called because it originates from Queensland, Australia and the Garnet part…well now that is what got us all excited.
So excited, that when we heard this deep red plum is being presented in Saint Vite, France we packed our bags and went to check it out.
We made our way from Valencia to Fumel, following the route that passes through the Pyrenees Mountains. The mountains are spectacular and for a non-skier I appreciated the green slopes.
Fumel itself is a beautiful little town with good restaurants, beautiful views and interesting displays. Upon our arrival we went for a stroll, had a delicious dinner (the French never disappoint) and joined in on the town dance at one of the plazas. I do believe that the entire local community was attending. Somewhere during all the dancing and other festivities a live band started singing and some people went to sit in a line, like you would in a rowing boat, and started rowing back and forth with their bodies. It looked like great fun and I could not pass up the opportunity to row back and forth on concrete. So I joined in. After a while children were passed over our heads and carried across our rowing bodies. When your arms, or lower back in my case, give out you get up and leave the line. Last one rowing is the winner!! It took me a while to figure this out, so needless to say, my lower back is still not back to its pre-concrete-rowing state.
The next morning we [read Wil] were up bright and early, ready to meet The Queen in Saint Vite which is about a 10 minute drive southwest from Fumel.
First off, it is a pretty good-looking fruit. It has an even round shape with a size of between 55 to 65mm
The color of the flesh is a remarkable red that illuminates in the sunlight and darkens as the fruit ripens. The skin is a very deep maroon color that appears almost purple when hanging on the tree. The combination of the flesh and skin gives the fruit as a whole a very healthy and nutritious appeal. The flavour is sweet with subtle acid notes. Although the acidity is present it is less distinctive than with standard varieties. The skin is also softer and melts away easier than with standard varieties.
Before our visit to Saint Vite we did some research (Googled) on the Queen Garnet Plum. Although not much information is available as yet, there are some health claims that caught our attention. Health claims such as, lowering blood pressure, reversing obesity and improving heart function.
Most of these claims are based on the high anti-oxidant, more specifically the anthocyanin, levels present in the Queen Garnet. Anthocyanins are water-soluble pigments which is what gives this plum its gorgeous deep red-maroon color and therefore appropriately named Queen Garnet. It naturally contains 2-10 times more anthocyanins than standard plum varieties. This sounds like quite a wide range, let’s put things into perspective. We are all familiar with the fact that blueberries are good for your health due to their high antioxidant levels. The anthocyanin levels in blueberries are on average 120mg per 100g of fruit. Queen Garnet contains between 136-300mg per 100g of fruit. Which means that even at its lowest level you are still getting more antioxidants than you would with the same amount of blueberries. The commercial average level for Queen Garnet is 200mg anthocyanins per 100g fruit including the skin. If you are wondering, one Queen Garnet plum weighs approximately 100g. One fruit will also give you between 10-30mg Vitamin C.
At this stage Queen Garnet plums are mostly only available in Australia, some fruit are exported to Asia. Fresh fruit will be available again from mid-January next year.
Queen Garnet plums were released for the fresh market in 2006 and then re-released in 2007. In 2009 the fruit was re-released for the fresh and processed market.
It seems that production, processing and fresh fruit sales are picking up momentum and achieving success. Interestingly enough it seems that the company Nutrafruit has taken a different approach with the marketing and processing of this plum. Nutrafruit holds the global license to commercialize a range of fruit varieties including Queen Garnet. Not only do they oversee the commercialization of the fresh fruit but they also manage the processing of Queen Garnet to a nectar and dry powder. The nectar is bottled in 250 ml serving size packaging and the fruit powder is probably used as a natural additive to increase color and/or anti-oxidant activity of a range of products. They also have a web shop where you can order products directly. If you would like to read more about Nutrafruit please click here.
What I like about this approach is that all the fruit will be used at the end of the day. Plums that meet the standard will be marketed as fresh fruit and the sub-standard fruit will be processed into high quality products. I really appreciated this concept. This seems to be a problem with some fresh fruit productions. Most often than not the fruit that meet the standard will be commercialized and the sub-standard fruit, which I must just say is still of very good quality, goes to the grave. Someone in Queensland used their melon.
After the success in Australia the next logical step is to expand. Trees have already been planted in Europe and the first commercial fruit will be available August 2017.
There are also plans to produce Queen Garnet in South Africa, North Africa, New Zealand, South America and North America. The first trial trees will be planted in South Africa this month.
High five to Bruce Topp and Douglas Russell for creating this super plum!
We will be following the progress on Queen Garnet and you will be the first to know where you can get a bite of what this plum variety has to offer.
Next we will be exploring a fig variety that will have you saying goo-goo-gha-gha….