Prunes Cultivation and Processing: After planting a prune plum tree, there is a four to six-year wait before the tree bears fruit.
From that point, a grower can look forward to about three solid decades of commercial productivity from the tree. The prune plum tree is deciduous, and therefore goes dormant during the winter months. This “rest time” for the trees provides the grower a chance to regulate tree shape, control fruit size, and maintain a healthy growth pattern by pruning.
When spring arrives, California orchards become covered in a fragrant blanket of white prune plum blossoms. After as little as a week, the blossoms drift to the ground and the orchards’ palette shifts to a deep chartreuse as new fruit forms and leaf buds burst.
During summer, California gets very little rain. Growers irrigate the orchards using water from the Sierra Nevada Mountains collected in the spring by the state’s extensive network of reservoirs. By irrigating the land (instead of relying on rain) the growers have more control over the quality of the fruit, and trees are given precisely the amount of water they need. The dry conditions minimize insect and pest activity, providing a cultivation environment that requires few chemicals.
By late summer, the orchards are ready for harvest—a job that takes only about 30 days for the entire crop. Prune plums are tree-ripened, and growers determine harvest time by checking fruit firmness and sugar content. A machine shakes each tree from its trunk.