In Praise of (local) Prunes

 Photo courtesy of Robin Loznak

I bought ten pounds of the best-tasting local prunes yesterday at the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market.  Janet Fisher and her daughter and son-in-law were giving out samples, so naturally I had to try them and oh, were they good!

My complaint about the packaged prunes at the grocery store (the bag says "dried plums" now to sound more appealing) is that they are too wet and gushy.  I've always wished they were drier and chewier, more like raisins.  I've even considered taking the time to put them in my dehydrator and dry them out a bit more.  Well, guess what?  These local prunes are exactly what I'm after, nice and chewy!  (Of course, you can steam them or stew them if you like them soft.)  Yes, they have pits, but you just pop one in your mouth and chew around it or slit the skin with a knife (or sharp thumbnail) and pull the pit out before eating.  Once pitted they can be chopped or snipped into pieces with scissors and used just as you would raisins.  I'll be tossing them into my morning oatmeal and using them in baked goods all winter long.  Exotic ideas are running through my head.  Once the pit is removed, the "pocket" could be stuffed with all sorts of delectable things; nuts, goat cheese, chocolate chips?  What a fun and nutritious snack!  C'mon, admit it, we could all use more fiber in our diet.

Janet Fisher, with the help of her family, grows Moyer, Italian, and Brooks prunes on her historic Umpqua Valley century farm, the Martha A. Maupin Century Farm, named for her great-great-grandmother.  According to the pamphlet I picked up at their booth, they use natural, organic growing methods and dry the prunes right on the farm in a commercial dryer (shown in the photo above) that has been serving them and other local growers since the 1930's.

The Moyer prunes are sold out for the season, but I sampled both the Italians and Brooks.  The Italian prunes are slightly smaller and a bit more tart than the Brooks, but both are sweet and delicious.  Prices are $12 for a 5-pound bag or $23 for a 10-pound bag of the Brooks--that's what I bought.  The Italians are $11 for a 5-pound bag and $21 for a 10-pound bag.  They will store nicely in your freezer for years, though I'm guessing mine will get eaten up long before next year's harvest is ready.

Your last chance to stock up on these wonderful prunes will be this Saturday, October 29 from 9 to 1, at the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market on Diamond Lake Blvd.   Don't miss out!

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