Disclosure: This blog post is part of a Sponsored relationship with California Prunes

Prunes!

What image does that word conjure up?

For me, it was Dad drinking his daily prune juice for the digestive health benefits! Therefore I thought of prunes as medicinal and not as a delicious or nutrient-rich dried fruit. 

But the more I learned about their nutritional benefits, the more surprised I was that more people don’t know about this fruit. This dried fruit is a surprisingly relevant gem and here’s why.

Instagram worthy, tasty, versatile and packed with nutrition, prunes deserve a place in your kitchen. I’m here to show you why you should amp up your food game with this superfood today! 

California produces 99% of the U.S. supply of prunes. Due to their market share and their sweet, distinct flavour and versatility, our article will focus on California Prunes. We will talk about the background of California Prunes, why they are a premium product, how naturally healthy they are, and how their distinct flavour came to be.

 

HISTORY 

Firstly, a prune is a dried plum.

There are over 1,000 varieties of plums around the world, and plum fruit trees have been growing in places such as the Mediterranean and ancient Egypt for thousands of years. The plums were dried in ovens or in the sun to be eaten. 

Frenchmen coming to America to make their fortunes during the Gold Rush brought with them the Petit d’Agen plums. Grafting them onto local wild American plum rootstock, they created a new species, the California plum, or d’Agen plum. 

From this species came the California Prune. What makes this variety so unique? The wonderful climate and long growing season that makes California a world-famous agricultural center that creates an incredibly rich, sweet, and tasty product. The warm days and cool nights assist in the process. The agricultural standards are extremely rigorous and of the highest quality in the world, ensuring consistent flavours. 

From the time of planting, the tree will take 8 to 12 years to bear full fruit. It is definitely a labour of love! Full production capacity is considered between 150 to 300 pounds of raw fruit annually for up to three decades. 

The trees are deciduous, so during the dormant winter months, farmers can hand-prune the trees to maintain their health. Blossoming in spring leads to irrigating in summer and, finally, harvest, which usually begins at the end of August. The freshly picked fruit heads to the dryers and then on to climate-controlled tunnels that balance out the exact levels of humidity in a perfected drying system 

The California Prune Board (CPB) representing over 800 growers and 28 packers have been fine-tuning their craft for more than 150 years and have unrivaled knowledge. Their trees, spread over 46,000 acres of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys, are lovingly tended by hand, manually thinned, and gently handled from start to finish. 

Generations of growers have passed down their expert craftsmanship to create a superior product. Moreover, California also produces 40% of the global prune supply. This makes California the world’s largest producer of prunes. Internationally, Canada is the third-largest export market for California Prunes. 

 

NUTRITIONAL BENEFITS

Secondly, now that we understand what prunes are, where they come from and where most of them are grown today, let’s talk about how this can be of use to us. Namely, the nutritional benefits of California Prunes. 

Nutritional Density: California Prunes are packed with nutrients. A single serving (40g) of California Prunes provides: 100 calories, 0g fat, 26 g carbohydrate, 3g fibre, 9mg sodium, 1g protein, 290mg potassium, 16 mg of magnesium, .08 mg vitamin B2, and a low glycemic load of 10. 

Bone Health: Prunes are very high in vitamin K and potassium as well as the mineral boron, which helps to retain bone density. They are even recommended to fight osteoporosis and 5 to 6 prunes a day helps mitigate bone loss in postmenopausal women. Healthy bones are crucial as we age. 

Blood Sugar: Due to their high fibre content (3g per serving), prunes don’t spike your blood sugar as most dried fruit due to their low glycemic index. Half is soluble and half is insoluble fibre. The soluble fibre increases satiety, or a feeling of fullness, which can be help regulate hunger, and helps to lower cholesterol. The insoluble fibre helps food move efficiently through the digestive tract. 

Digestion: This is what prunes are known for, relieving constipation by acting as a laxative (thanks to the sorbitol content). For this reason they have usually been known as a food for older people, but everybody needs healthy dietary fibre. They support good gut health. Drinking prune juice is a popular way to treat constipation. 

Superfood: Prunes contain boron, magnesium, potassium and vitamin B2. 

Cholesterol: The fibre in prunes can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels

Anti-inflammatory: Prunes contain high levels of antioxidants that can protect against cancer, inflammation and DNA damage. The phenolic compound levels in prunes provide these antioxidants and offer incredible health benefits. 

 

RECIPES 

California Prunes have a distinct rich flavour unlike any other prune. They are perfect for cooking and baking as they maintain moisture, enhance both savoury and sweet flavours, and are a nutritious alternative to sugar in sauces and baked goods. 

They can be made into jam or enjoyed as a stand-alone dried fruit snack, a delicious addition to trail mix, an oatmeal topping, they can be added to a smoothie, warmed up and served over pancakes or waffles, stewed, or added to salads, baked goods, grains or proteins.

Pureed prunes also make great baby food!

Below are a couple of ways to create a tasty dish from California Prunes. Our favorite is adding prunes to a seven-grain salad for an umami punch of delicious and nutritious flavour. 

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Summer Grain Salad with California Prunes & Feta Cheese

Summer Grain Salad

Course Salad
Keyword feta, prune
Servings 8

Ingredients

  • 2.5 2.5 Cups 7-grain mix Cooked
  • 1 Sweet potato Chopped
  • 2 Cups Kale chopped & packed
  • 1 Bell pepper Diced
  • 1/4 Cup Cherry tomatoes chopped
  • 10 California Prunes halved
  • 1/4 Cup Dijon Mustard
  • 2 tbsp Maple Syrup
  • 3 tbsp Apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp Sea salt divided
  • 1/2 tsp Black pepper divided
  • Pomegranate and pumpkin seeds for garnish

Directions

  1. Place mixture on the baking sheet (do not overcrowd) and bake for 25-30 minutes, flipping half way.

  2. Remove from oven and set aside.

  3. While potatoes are cooking, prepare 7-grain salad mix (package options

    online) (aim to cook 1.5 - 2 cups dry).

  4. Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat to flash fry kale.

  5. Once the skillet is hot, add 1⁄2 tbsp olive oil to it and add the kale with 1⁄4 tsp sea salt.

  6. Cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Be sure to not overcook.

  7. Add 7-grain mixture to a bowl with the sweet potato, kale, pepper, tomatoes and pitted prunes.

  8. Whisk together Dijon, maple syrup and apple cider vinegar.

  9. Add Dijon mixture to bowl and mix to coat.

  10. Garnish and Enjoy!

Recipe Notes

Keeps for up to 7 days in the fridge.

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No Bake California Prune Power Balls

This recipe from California Prunes was super easy to make, and the results made for both a sweet dessert and a perfect on-the-go snack the next day.

Course Dessert, Snack
Keyword Prune Power Balls
Servings 24

Ingredients

  • 30 pitted California Prunes (about 1 cup/250 ml packed)
  • 1/3 cup Almond butter (75 ml)
  • 2 tbsp Honey (30 ml)
  • 1/4 cup Rice crisp cereal (125 ml)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted, roasted sunflower seeds (50 ml)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened, desiccated coconut (approx.) (75 ml)

Directions

  1. Pulse prunes with almond butter and honey in a food processor until finely chopped.

  2. Transfer to bowl.

  3. Stir in rice crisps and sunflower seeds by hand until well mixed.

  4. Scoop level tablespoonfuls prune mixture; form into balls and roll in coconut to coat.

  5. Repeat until all mixture is used.

  6. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for 1 hour to set or up to 1 week.

Tips:
Add in a sprinkle of hemp hearts, flax or chia seeds for added nutrition.
For an indulgent twist, stir in 1 tbsp (15 ml) mini chocolate chips.
Power balls can be frozen for up to 1 month; thaw before eating.

Love these recipes? Check out more delicious options for your California Prunes here!

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