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Smoothing a wrinkled reputation

Dried plums, also known as prunes, have been plagued by misperceptions.



Dried plums, also known as prunes, have been grown in California since the Gold Rush days, although they have been plagued by misperceptions that they are food solely for the elderly.

Joe Turkovich is the latest in his family to grow the fruit in the Winters area of Yolo County. He says those who give dried plums a try are in for a treat.

"I think prunes are a bit misunderstood," Turkovich said. "They're associated with being an older person's fruit but what we've found is that the fruit is tremendously healthful - it's super high in antioxidants—one of the highest fruits you can buy, and it's also very high in potassium and soluble fiber, so it's got all of these great attributes. But not only that: It tastes super sweet."

Joe's plums head to a dehydrator, before being shipped to Sunsweet Growers, the world's largest dried-plum producer. Sunsweet has been the bedrock of Yuba City for more than 90 years, and in fact is the city's largest private employer. Today, it devotes more than 1.1 million square feet to the processing plant, with upwards of 900,000 pounds of dried fruit handled daily.

A new product that's exceptionally popular is "Ones," which are individually wrapped prunes that fit today's consumer needs for convenience, taste and great nutrition.

Those who produce dried plums say if people give the fruit a try, they will be back for more.

"We know what happens when people try it," said Sunsweet's Dane Lance. "Everyone thinks they don't like prunes, but in fact—if you put one in your mouth, we see people get really surprised and they're a convert."

For more information, visit www.californiadriedplums.org and www.sunsweet.com.


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