From Plums to Prunes
California Prunes come from Californian plum trees, grown by farmers in orchards. Each spring, bees help pollinate the white blossoms so the fruit can start to grow. As the plums ripen, they turn from green to dark purple. Then, it’s harvest time! A mechanical harvester grabs the trunk and shakes the fresh fruit onto a fabric-covered frame set under the tree. From there, the fruit is takes a ride on a conveyor belt to the storage containers. After weighing and washing, the fresh prune plums are placed onto stackable trays and rolled into large tunnels, where they dry in hot air. When this is done, the fruit looks like the prunes we’re familiar with, but they’re not ready to eat just yet! The prunes still need to be sorted, steamed, pitted and packaged before you can eat them. Finally it’s snack time!
- Although all prunes are plums, not all plums can be prunes. Only certain varieties can be dehydrated the right way, turning them into prunes. California Prunes are the “Improved French” variety of plums.
- This variety comes from a French plum called the Petit d’Agen, brought to California by a Frenchman named Louis Pellier. Having arrived during the Gold Rush in the 19th century, Pellier didn’t have much luck finding gold so decided instead to try growing prunes. He attached part of the French plum tree to a wild American plum tree – a practice that farmers call “grafting”- and created the California Prune that is famous today.
- These trees grew so well in California that other growers soon caught on, and orchards began popping up all over the state, from the Santa Clara and San Joaquin Valleys to Sacramento, Sonoma, and Napa.
- At first, farmers picked the fresh prunes by hand and dried them in the open air and sun. One farmer even tried using 500 monkeys to pick his prunes for him, which they did, but then they ate them all instead! Those monkeys were sacked and 150 years on, today’s farmers use machines to pick the prunes.
- California is the perfect place to grow prunes because of the long, warm seasons and the lush valleys, which are made up of rich soils. With lots of sunshine, water, and smart farming techniques, the prunes ripen perfectly, giving us lots of fresh California Prunes with a sweet flavour that tastes great.
- Today, California supplies 40 percent of the world’s prunes and we send them to over 60 countries each year. That’s enough prunes to circle the earth more than six times!
- California Prunes are good for your gut, and your bones!