Prunes badly underrated; try one pitted, chocolate coated

A prune by any other name is still a prune. Sorry, Prune Marketing Committee and others who decided to rename prunes dried plums — a prune will always be a prune in my book.

I like prunes. (Some people say I should eat a lot more than I do to improve my disposition.)

I am a cheerleader for prunes. Prunes are one of California agriculture's true treasures. You ought to see people's faces when I start extolling the virtues of prunes. Their top lip curls upward and invariably a looks of bewilderment crosses their face. Unfortunately, my wife is one of those people.

Honest, prunes are a delicious snack. Think of them as more than a constitutional necessity. I also love Muscat raisins, and what is a prune but a larger, plumper, juicier Muscat?

Coat a Muscat in chocolate (dark preferable) and you have a delicacy that challenges anyone to verbally describe.

Drench a pitted prune in dark chocolate, and that is something to kill for. Really! That is the most decadent of all nature's candy. Okay, nature has a little help with the chocolate. You would be shocked at how many folks doubt me. I literally have to shove one in their mouth to make them true believers.

“That's nice,” they say.

Nice? That is like calling the Dallas Cowboys just a football team. The Cowboys are America's Team — at least most people thought of them as such before the Jones guy bought them. I still do.

California's prune industry has fallen on hard times of late with massive tree pull-outs to reduce oversupplies. However, it is not the industry's fault. It is your fault because you don't eat enough prunes.

Sunsweet Growers, the world's largest dried plum/prune grower and marketing organization is fighting back. Rather than wait for the next tree pull-out program, they are continuing to aggressively market prunes to bolster demand.

Recently Sunsweet sent to me a couple of samples of its new product, The Smart Snack 8-Pack Original and Cherry Essence flavored dried plums/prunes that will go on supermarket shelves next month.

The 8-pack contains eight snack-sized packages containing three dried plums/prunes each.

The packs are designed for the busy American consumer like you and for busy kids' school lunches. According to a publication called Snackworld, healthy snacks are the fastest growing market segment. Baby carrots in snack packs now, prunes tomorrow.

You have got to try the cherry essence prunes. Second on my list of favorite snacks behind chocolate-covered prunes are the flavor essence prunes. There are lemon and citrus-essence flavors as well.

It is time agriculture stepped up and supported one of its own. Buy more prune products. The only way you will ever know if I am right or wrong about chocolate-covered prunes or the essence flavored prunes, is to try them.

Those of you who complain about not being able to find a good, fresh California peach, buy some prunes. You won't be sorry, and you don't have to wait until summer. And besides prune production will become profitable once again if you start buying more prunes, leaving those plum orchards in the ground rather than seeing them pushed and burned to be replaced with almonds or something else.

Now get out there and buy some prunes.

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