Always in Season: Dried Plums DriedPlums_hero_1280x642

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.”

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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.
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Laura Flippen

Central California

Discover the Central Valley

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12
November
Average (°C)
Sept - Nov
32°
High
6°
Low
Dec - Feb
16°
High
3°
Low
Mar - May
28°
High
7°
Low
June - Aug
36°
High
16°
Low

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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Laura Flippen

Farm Stands & Farmers’ Markets

Sample fresh, seasonal produce and artisanal foods and chat with local farmers

This fertile valley stretches for some 450 miles from roughly Chico south to Bakersfield—the pancake-flat belly of California. Farms and ranches...

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Harvest season is a time of celebration (and good eats) in California’s agricultural heartland.

Home to many signature festivals and events, the Central Valley shines brightest around harvest season.

"After all, this is one of the world’s most bountiful agricultural

...
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Alex Farnum

Davis

You don’t have to be a student to enjoy the perks of this ag-oriented college town

Eco-friendly, liberal leaning, progressive, impressive professor’s homes and fraternity houses—Davis has the hallmarks of a classic college...

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Farm-fresh produce, culinary adventures

Juicy heirloom tomatoes and just-picked strawberries. Super-sweet peaches shaped like mini Ufos. Artisanal cheeses, emerald-green olive oils, local wildflower honey—California’s farmers’ markets...

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Laura Flippen
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Laura Flippen

Haggin Museum

Local history merges with world-renowned art at this must-see museum in Stockton’s Victory Park

Housed in an early-19th-century brick building, this handsome art and history museum is the centerpiece of Stockton’s stately Victory Park. The 34...

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Laura Flippen

Trip 3-5 days 10 stops

California's Heartland

Pick fresh produce, relax in cool gardens, and learn about local farming heritage
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This relaxed city has some secret gems that make a pleasing start to your trip. Start at Sundial Bridge, a functional work of art, the remarkable pedestrian bridge, designed by renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, spans the tree-lined, trout-filled Sacramento River in Redding’s Turtle...

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This rapidly growing city in the southern Central Valley is full of pleasant surprises. Once known for oil and agriculture, Bakersfield is morphing into a Central Valley hub for arts, culture, and sports, while still offering a glimpse of the region’s past. One fascinating historical site worth...

April

One of California’s premier universities, University of California, Davis, invites everyone to its annual open house—a chance to learn, play, touch, taste, and enjoy the leafy campus just north of...

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Courtesy of U.C. Davis College of Engineering
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Kodiak Greenwood

Gray Lodge Wildlife Area

Some 300 species of birds and mammals make this a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts

Located on the Pacific Flyway 60 miles north of Sacramento, Gray Lodge encompasses 9,200 acres surrounded by agricultural flatlands and...

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Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

Houseboating

Take to the water on a deluxe floating home

In California, it’s hard to talk about houseboating without talking about the Central Valley. One of the state’s premier places for vacationing in...

November

Honor the harvest season at this remarkable, family-friendly event, hosted at the beautiful Full Belly Farm in the fertile Capay Valley. The valley, just north of Sacramento, has one of the world’...

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Harriot Manley/Sunset Publishing

California Delta

A boater’s and fisherman’s paradise awaits

Located northeast of the San Francisco Bay, this 1,000-mile network of inland waterways—the major drainage from the snow-capped Sierra Nevada to...

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Dale Goff Photography

Lodi Wine Country

Sample big, bold reds and eco-friendly winemaking

Best known for big red wines, particularly old-vine Zinfandels, this American Viticultural Area 100 miles east of San Francisco is also a leader...

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Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

Fresno

Discover agriculture and culture in the valley's biggest city

The Central Valley’s largest city makes for a surprisingly lively getaway. Seven stadiums and a pair of arenas satisfy sporty types, and an annual...

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Courtesy of Buck Owens Crystal Palace

Bakersfield

Experience California’s oil-rich history, with Basque food and country western music on the side

This rapidly growing city in the southern Central Valley is full of pleasant surprises. Once known for oil and...

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Derrell McCain/Alamy

Best Kept Secret: Solano County

See why this Central Valley region holds its own in terms of good wine, pretty countryside, and cool activities

A treasure awaits about 20 miles east of Napa, in a lovely but largely “secret” area of sprawling countryside and bayfront beauty. This is...