Plum orchards

Origin of the Agen Prunes

It was in the 12th century, on the return from a crusade, that the Benedictine monks of the Abbey of Clairac (in the Lot valley) grafted local plum trees with new plants brought from Syria. This new variety of plum, called Prune d'Ente, has the particularity of producing sweet, large-sized fruit with a thin skin. In other words, the ideal fruit for making Prunes.

In 2002, the PGI "Pruneaux d'Agen" was created, thus protecting the 6 departments of the South-West where this delicacy comes from (Lot-et-Garonne (76%), Dordogne (8%), Gironde (6%), Tarn-et-Garonne (4%), Gers and Lot).

Each year, nearly 40,000 tonnes of Agen prunes are sold in France (70%) and abroad (30%).

The harvest of the Plum d'Ente

Harvesting times may vary slightly depending on the region, but traditionally it runs from mid-August to mid-September. In order to have a very sweet plum, the plums must be harvested when they are ripe and especially before they fall to the ground. We know that the Ente plum is ready to be picked when it can be easily detached from its branch.

That's why we use special machines that vibrate each tree to make them fall. They then land on soft walls so as not to damage them.

Don't hesitate to watch this short video explaining the process.

The drying stage

Harvested in paloxes, the plums are sorted by size and stoned. Then comes the last stage, the drying stage. This consists of placing the fresh plums on racks (= wooden frame with a grid) and putting them in the oven. To obtain a dry prune (21% humidity), the plums are left in the oven for 20 to 24 hours at a temperature of between 75°C and 85°C. Count 3.2 kg of plums for 1 kg of prunes.

To obtain a semi-cooked prune (35% humidity), the drying time is interrupted. Count 10-12 hours of drying. The semi-cooked prune is the most popular in pastries and cooking. They are soft on the inside and you can enjoy the taste of the fruit intensely.

It is important to distinguish them from rehydrated prunes. 
These are obtained by soaking the dried prunes in water for a few hours to give them a soft texture. Any self-respecting prune grower would consider this a crime ;-). The original taste of the prunes is effectively lost.