Califonia Bountiful

California prunes

California prunes enjoy their time in the sun


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For years, prunes have been the punchline of jokes—known as a food you might eat when you've reached your golden years. For a time, they were even called dried plums in an effort to change their image. But now they're back to being prunes. California prunes, actually, which is good news to California prune farmers like Mike Vasey.  

A first-generation farmer, Mike grows 700 acres of prunes at his Lindauer River Ranch in Red Bluff. And like other prune growers, his fruit thrives in the Golden State thanks to warm days and cool nights. If you've ever enjoyed the sweet satisfaction that comes from sinking your teeth into a fresh prune, chances are it came from California. That's because almost 99% of the prunes produced in the United States are grown right here.

Once the fruit is deemed sweet enough and the right size, then harvest begins. First, a mechanical shaker grabs a tree's main limb and, in a matter of seconds, it shakes the fruit off the tree and onto a frame underneath. Then it's a quick conveyor ride to bins destined for the dehydrator. There, the prunes sit in huge ovens, or climate-controlled "tunnels." Inside the tunnels, the temperature reaches upwards of 185 degrees and, in a matter of 18 hours, fresh plums are transformed into prunes. They go on to be packaged and sent to countries all over the world: California produces about 40% of the world's supply! 

For more information about California prunes and the "36 Lady Prune Cake" recipe featured in this story, visit https://californiaprunes.org.


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