Enhance The Sweet Flavor Of Plums With A Pinch Of Salt

Have you ever wondered why we salt margaritas? You might answer, "It brings out the lime flavor," but how is this possible? It's the same deal when you salt a plum – and if you haven't been salting your plums, you should consider starting.

Perhaps counterintuitively, salt makes things taste sweeter. Forget what you might have heard about different areas on the tongue responding to the five different tastes. Sour, sweet, salty, bitter, and umami aren't segregated in the mouth — more recent research shows that the same taste buds register multiple of these flavors in varying degrees. They interact on a biological level, and different flavors can enhance each other in the right combinations (think salted caramel or salt on a grapefruit).

Sweetness is perceived by taste receptors in the taste buds called T1R. Elsewhere in the body, sodium-glucose cotransporter 1 (SGLT1) is a protein fueled by sodium. SGLT1 functionally carries glucose to the kidneys and intestine to fuel them and is also found in the T1R taste cells that register sweetness. Effectively, when glucose and salt are combined, the body's taste receptors are more responsive to the sweetness stimulus — making salty-sweet greater than the sum of its parts.

Salting your plums emphasizes the sweetness in their dark, floral profile — and it's also a quick way to rescue less-than-stellar quality plums that might be under-ripe or past their prime. We've rounded up some ideas to help you make the most with a pinch of the good stuff.

Sweet-savory meals and ultra-sweet desserts

A raw plum with coarse sea salt is a simple, complex snack. You could also pre-make a batch of jarred salted plums to keep on hand for future recipes. To do it, fill a Mason jar with halved plums, then generously salt. Screw the lid on, give the jar a few rotations to make sure the plums are evenly coated, then stash it in a cool, dark place for two weeks to infuse. As you walk by, give the jar a few good shakes every day. They'll keep in the fridge for at least a month.

You could serve your salted plums on a turkey sandwich or over roasted pork chops. Or, for a sophisticated dinner party hors d'oeuvre, serve your salted plums on baguette slices with ricotta and a drizzle of good olive oil. Salted plums would also work well on a salad with black pepper, grated parmesan, and peppery arugula. Or, pair salted plums with tangy feta, fresh goat cheese, or aged Manchego for a knockout charcuterie board.

For foodies with extra-strong sweet tooths, quarter some plums, drape them in melty dark chocolate, and sprinkle generously with coarse sea salt. Transfer those bad boys to the fridge to harden, and you have a rich, sweet snack or dessert. You could also make a salted plum tart with mascarpone and lavender, or salted plum crumble with homemade cardamom ice cream.