Always in Season: Dried Plums

Always in Season: Dried Plums

Always in Season: Dried Plums
Bountiful orchards grow top quality fruit

Driving through Northern California on U.S. 99 in the Central Valley region, life around you slows to a country pace, with small rural towns surrounded by fields, ranches, and lush orchards. This is plum country, where generations of growers have produced fruits that are dried and shipped all over the U.S. and to places as far away as Scandinavia and China.

Remarkably, the varieties of fruit used to make dried plums (also called prunes) are more or less the same ones used for the past 100 years. According to plum grower Joe Turkovich, who grew up in the region, “That’s very unusual in the fruit business—we’re growing the same exact plant we did when I was a kid: French plums.”

While the fruits haven’t changed, the methods used to grow them have. Water, for example, has become an increasingly precious resource, and plum growers are working to find ways to water their trees more efficiently. Nick Micheli of Micheli Family Farms, based in Live Oak (near Yuba City), uses underground micro-jet irrigation systems that apply water directly to the trees’ root zone. “They save a tremendous amount of water,” says Nick, while still producing top quality fruit.

California’s chef-driven trend of featuring fresh, local ingredients on seasonal menus has been a boon for dried plum growers too, with relationships built between chefs and growers. One chef couple, Evan and Sarah Rich of San Francisco’s rustic-chic Rich Table, thrives on the state’s bounty of produce, including dried plums. “We meet these farmers, and we realize how much passion they have in what they grow,” notes Chef Evan. “And they have the same amount of passion in what they’re growing as we have in what we’re cooking.”

150 year old Dried Plum Varieties Rule Northern California Orchards
Northern California farmers Joe Turkovich and Nick Micheli have been growing the same variety of plums that past generations have been growing in California for more than a century — a rarity in modern day farming.
Laura Flippen

Discover the Central Valley

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California’s heartland offers up one of the state’s most authentic and sensory-rich experiences, a chance to see—and taste—the state’s bounty at every turn. Follow oak-shaded country roads to farm stands overflowing with fresh produce, and meander along wine trails to some of the state’s most productive vineyards and low-key tasting rooms.

Peaches, plums, apricots, and tomatoes—just some of the ultra-fresh produce you will find at farm stands throughout the valley.

Throughout the broad valley, stretching for over 400 miles/644 kilometers down the middle of the state, are cities and towns rich with history, international culture, and “everyone’s welcome” charm. 

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