At Sunset, nothing excites us more than tracing the path of California’s bounty from farm-to-fork. Always up for this journey of culinary discovery, we set off to learn about a fruit that has long intrigued us: the California Prune. Grown in lush valleys and tended to by generations of passionate caretakers, this abundantly delicious and endlessly versatile fruit is the best-kept secret of the West Coast. But now that we know, we’re not likely to forget–and once we spill the beans on how this nutritional powerhouse can transform our plate into something delicious, neither will you.
Sweet on Prunes
As the sunbaked days of mid-August transition into a slightly milder September, the prune growers of California are busy. These are their key harvest months, and growers can be seen shaking the bejeweled trees loose of their treasures.
When we first set foot in a California Prune orchard–sprawling acres of lush, fruit-packed trees as far as the eye could see–in the middle of harvest, we knew we were about to discover something delicious. Walking through rows of California Prune trees alongside the growers who tend to them showed us that quality is something you can taste straight off the branch. California’s rich soil, steady sunshine and cool evenings make for the best (and longest) growing season, meaning that nothing quite compares to the California climate for the cultivation of the small-but-mighty prune.
What really makes California Prunes so unique is the level of dedication and craftsmanship that goes into every step of their journey from farm-to-fork. Hundreds of growers hand-tend each tree under exacting agricultural standards to cultivate the perfect fruit. These growers have honed the practice of drying their prunes, artfully balancing temperature, humidity, and time.
Growing a healthy prune plum tree takes time: About 4-6 years to see the fruits of their labor. Once in full production, trees can produce roughly 300 pounds of raw fruit per year. Throughout the season farmers check fruit for firmness and sugar content, harvesting it at its peak before sending it off for drying and processing.
The prunes are then primed for an intricate dehydration process–in climate-controlled tunnels–a process that was developed and perfected by California Prune growers themselves. Then, the prunes remain in cool storage before being rehydrated, sterilized, inspected one last time, and packaged for shipping.
Prunes with Benefits
California Prunes are sweet, chewy and packed with nutritional benefits, including minerals and plant nutrients that function as antioxidants to protect the cells of the body. In addition, a single serving of 4-5 California Prunes has 3 grams of soluble and insoluble fiber with no added sugar or sodium, so you can feel really good about adding these to your diet.
California Prunes can help support your gut, heart, and bones, all while tasting like you sneaked a treat from the candy jar.
The Proof Is in Your Prunes
We learned firsthand that California Prunes taste like no other prunes in the world, and we just knew they would lend themselves well to some delicious and distinct food pairings. Chef Kyle Kuklewski, was incredibly inspired by this delicious fruit at a recent Sunset event, as he created two prune-centric recipes that show off their amazingly versatile nature.
Whether you work this wonder fruit into your favorite recipe or snack on them as a midday treat, you can thank us later for introducing you to your new pantry staple.
Here are two of Chef Kuklewski’s creations for you to try at home: