Aus Prunes are sweet plums of the D'Agen variety dried to roughly one third of their original moisture content. Most Aus Prunes are dried on the farms where they are grown.
The earliest records of the D'Agen being imported into Australia date back to 1866 and at the time, prunes were seen as potentially "a great source of wealth to the country."
Since then, there have been numerous plantings in and around southern NSW, with many trees being planted by returned soldiers in the 1920s. Today, the heart of the Australian prune industry is in the temperate areas of Young and Griffith, which offer ideal conditions for picturesque plum orchards. Now, around 70 farmers produce up to 3,000 tonnes of premium quality Australian prunes every year.
Prune production is one of the very few Australian horticultural sectors that is continuing to grow, with farmers planting new trees every year.
Australian prunes are dried on the farms where they're grown. Farmers pick them in late summer and early autumn, when the fruit has ripened and the sugar levels are just right. At that stage, the fruit is hanging like large purple grapes on the tree branch. It's picked very quickly by mechanical shakers and immediately dried overnight in large hot-air tunnels on the farm, so that the picking and drying process is complete within 24 hours.
The fruit will lose around two thirds of its moisture in the drying process, so three tonnes of freshly picked plums will make just one tonne of prunes. Once dried, the prunes can be stored for up to two years.