PRUNES. The prunes of commerce are the dried plums of certain cultivated varieties, and are obtained from France, Spain, Austria, Hungary, Germany, Servia, Bosnia, and other sections of the Turkish empire. The best prunes are obtained from Bordeaux, the chief commercial city in the south of France, and are grown and cured by the farmers of that section in a terri tory of some 40 to 50 miles radius from that city.
There are diffei ent grades of prunes raised in France and else where, and the quality of these depends to a considerable extent upon the place where they are grown, the stock grown from and the season in which they are raised. Like our apples here, the prune crop elsewhere varies with the season, and yields not only in quantity and quality, but in price. Various modes of curing are resorted to. The fruits are not gathered until the dews are dried off them by the sun. They are then picked by hand and spread in shallow baskets, which are kept in a cool and dry place. When they become soft they are shut up close in spent ovens and left for 24 hours. They are then taken out and replaced after the ovens have been slightly re-heated, On the following day they are taken out and turned by slightly shaking the sieves on which they have been laid. The ovens are heated again, and they are put in a third time, and, after remaining twenty-four hours more, they are taken out and allowed to get quite cold. After some further manipulation, they are submitted to oven heat twice more, and then packed into boxes or jars for sale. This treat ment is only accorded to the finer kind of prunes, though some of them are still further treated in different ways, being given a dark color by a harmless pigment, and preserved and kept moist for packing in boxes by the addition of a coating of glycerine. This is to please the eye solely, for it adds nothing to the flavor Dr quality of the fruit. The drying process requires considerable skill, the aim being to develop the saccharine principle of the fruit without, at the same time, changing its flavor or taking from its fruit-like quality—so that, in fact, it may be ready at any time for use on the table or in the sick-room, for prunes are often ordered by physicians for their cooling and aperient qualities, as also as a vehicle in which to take unpalatable medicines.
French prunes of the better grades are put up in tin boxes and glass jars, which are hermetically sealed, labeled, and are then ready for market. If the season has been good, the quantity of large and prime fruit is considerable. The largest fruit and of the highest grade or quality of French prunes, number about forty to the pound. From this they run up in number and down in grade. to 130 to the pound. The figures 50 to 55-80 to 85, etc., which occur in price-lists, refer to the number of prunes it takes to make one pound. The best prunes are said to come from the cultivated trees which are grafted upon the wild plum stock. The common sorts of the fruit in France are shaken from the trees, dried with less care, and roughly packed in casks. Of this character are the prunes which come from Servia and from Turkey. Bosnia prunes are the best that come from Turkey. Austrian prunes are of an inferior quality, but some good prunes are obtained from certain sections of Hungary. Prunelles are a peculiar kind of prunes, with the stones removed. They are of an acid flavor, and not so popular as the ordinary article. Ordinary dried prunes of the lower grades have to be stewed before they are fit for the table. New York is the great point of import for foreign prunes. In re gard to the prices prevailing and the demand from year to year, they may be said to be contingent upon the cost and supply of the fruit. When prunes can be sold at twelve cents a pound the trade in them is very much larger than when the price is higher. The fresh crop arrives in December.