Two weeks ago, we had the pleasure of visiting with Western Growers, an association that represents family farmers (like us!) who grow fresh produce and tree nuts in California, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. They filmed several videos, including this one about our involvement with NASA. We enjoyed walking them through the steps of how prunes are made at Taylor Brothers Farms and wanted to share more about the process.

processing prunes

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, all prunes are plums but not all plums can be prunes! The California Prune (New Improved French) was created in the 19th Century from the La Petite d’Agen, a French plum variety that fully ripens on the tree without fermenting prior to harvesting. Our special plums go through an extensive harvesting, drying, pitting, and steaming process, turning three pounds of fresh fruit into one pound of delicious dried fruit that we’re proud to call our own. (You can learn more about the drying process in our 2018 harvest recap.)

Once harvested and dried, our prunes are transferred to our state-of-the-art packing facility, located in Northern California, where our trained personnel hand-inspect them for quality. Any prunes with cosmetic damage are turned into juice. (Nothing goes to waste at TBF!) After the initial inspection, the prunes are washed and sent to the steam line to be softened for 5-8 minutes. Once steamed, our prunes are then graded for size and the pits are mechanically pitted before undergoing another round of quality control.

Hand Inspecting Prunes

Post-dehydration, we steam the prunes to 25-32 percent moisture — known as "natural condition" — because this is the condition at which prunes store best. Unlike other processed fruits, most prunes are packed to order, whereupon they’re rehydrated, blanched to 212° F, and put through a final inspection. Some prunes will go into retail packs sold around the world, while others will become ingredients in manufactured or confectionery goods. It depends on the specifications of the client; however, until those specifications are made, our prunes will remain in cool storage facilities until final processing and packaging.

And there you have it — the process of turning a plum into a prune is a unique transformation that we’re proud to carefully oversee at Taylor Brothers Farms.

March 01, 2019 — Courtney Ferris