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Stories from the valley

5 Facts You Didn’t Know About Prunes

Contributed by Jennifer Harrison

Prunes, they’re not just your grandmother’s snack anymore.  From the fruit’s history to its nutritional pedigree, here are five facts about the Sacramento Valley crop that may surprise you.

Name Game

Call them prunes.  Prunes are plums that have been dried naturally.  “Dried plums” entered the lexicon in an attempt to re-brand the prune, but the industry has returned to its roots and is now fully embracing the prune name.

Historical Crop

The French and failure got us the prune.  Louise Pellier, a Frenchman came to the United States in search of California gold.  His gold mining venture was a bust and he turned to farming.  In 1850, Pellier, originally from the Agen region in France, a place known for prunes, grafted cutting of the d’Agen rootstock onto wild plum trees growing in the Santa Clara Valley.  The rest is prune history.

Prolific Place

Not all plums can become prunes, because not all plums can be dried.  The California variety, however, is a perfect candidate for drying, as it can ripen on the tree, pit and all, without fermenting.   While the first California prune was originally planted in the Santa Clara Valley, a majority of the prunes are now grown in the Sacramento Valley.  Our region’s soil, warm climate and long growing season make it ideal for growing what some refer to as the perfect snack.

Super Food

Want stronger bones and a healthy immune system?  Grab 4-5 prunes.  Prunes contain Potassium, Boron, Vitamin K and other nutrients that protect bones.  As for your immune system, 70% of the immune system lives in the gut, so keeping your digestive system healthy is vital.  Prunes, full of soluble and insoluble fiber support that digestive health.

Cooking Companion 

Prunes are an excellent fat substitute for baking.  Prunes contain pectin, sorbitol and malic acid, and when blended into a puree, prunes can be swapped for butter in your next cookie or cake recipe.