Prunes

History

Prunes are originating from western Asia, this fruit is used since Antiquity. Drying method was introduced by Romans.

Dried prunes were favourite food for sailor during the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries, because this fruit kept its nutritionals qualities during a long time.

The farming of prunes spread in California, South Africa, Australia, Argentina and Chili. These countries are now the main competition for Agen dried prunes where they are originating from.

Today, the biggest producing country is USA in California. The variety d’Ente (most produced) arrived during the XIXth century with Pellier Brothers who are from Agen in France.

 

Production

USA produce around 45% of total production in dried prunes. Chili and France are also important producing countries.

Estimated World Prunes Production 2014/2015
Countries PRODUCTION per TONS
USA             125 000  
CHILE               65 000 
France               45 000  
ARGENTINA               11 000  
SERBIA                 7 000  
AUSTRALIA                 2 750 
ITALY                 2 200  
SOUTH AFRICA                     900  
TOTAL            258 850

Source : XXXIII World Nut and Dried Fruit Congress Melbourne May 2014

Harvest

Prune trees begin to produce fruit between the 4th and the 6th years. But maximal production is reached between the 8th and 12th years.

Harvesting period is during one month from mid-august.

Ripe fruits are harvest by manual shaking or with a mechanic vibrator to bring down all the fruits on a cover. Then, the fruit are cleaned with water and dried with sun or in an industrial oven.

The quality of the dried prunes depends on the ripeness of the fruit when it was harvested.

 

Countries of origin

The most important origins are California, France with the famous Agen dried prunes, Chili and Argentina.

Dried prunes can be pitted or whole, there are many pitting methods:

  • Sunsweet: all the stone is removed by a clean way

  • Ashlock: Stone is removed with a bolt

  • Elliot: the fruit is crushed to remove the stone

Varieties and grades

In France, Agen dried prunes are from the d’Ente variety. To be considered as a dried fruit, humidity must be less than 3%.

Sizing: number of whole dried prunes for 500g

  • Giants (géants): 33/44

  • Very large (très gros): 44/55

  • Large (gros): 55/66

  • Medium (moyens): 66/77

 

In USA, the dried prunes are also from d’Ente variety.

Sizing: number of whole dried prunes per lb

  • Extra Large: less than 43

  • Large: less than 53

  • Medium: less than 67

  • Small: less than 85

Grades:

  • US Fancy – Grade A

  • US Choice – Grade B

  • US Standard – Grade C

  • Substandard