If you haven’t tasted it lately, it’s time to take a fresh look at dried fruit. Sweet and satisfying, dried fruit can brighten any winter dish with a burst of sunny flavor. Add in powerhouse nutrition and no-mess prep and you’ll wonder what took you so long to give it a try.
“Many people struggle to eat enough produce during the winter months, but dried fruit is a great way to eat seasonally all year long,” explains Raley’s Registered Dietitian Earline Griffith. “Because they’re dried when summer fruit is at its peak, you preserve the natural phytonutrients like beta-carotene and lycopene – things that we always need in our diet.”
To get a behind-the-scenes look at this wonder snack, we visited Yuba City-based Sunsweet Growers, the world’s largest handler of dried tree fruit.
Owned by over 400 farmers, Sunsweet began as an apricot cooperative but quickly expanded into producing dried plums, mangoes, blueberries, cherries – even pineapple!
“Perfect harvesting is an art. Smaller fruit is more acidic, so our farmers harvest when the fruit is larger,” explains Gene. “And because all of our plums are locally grown, we can let them ripen longer on the tree.”
After harvesting, fruit is washed and immediately begins the drying process. As water is removed (up to 75%!), the nutrients, sugars, and flavors left behind are concentrated in the fruit. Next, each piece is sorted for quality and size and pitted if necessary. Once packaged, the fruit heads to our stores where the real fun begins – choosing a variety!
“The great thing about dried fruit is there is a product for every taste – and our stores are packed with options,” Earline says. “Single-serve products, like Sunsweet 60-calorie packs, are really convenient for customers on-the-go, and the bulk bins in our Natural Foods department are a great value,” she adds. “What’s fun is you really can’t go wrong; you never know when you might find a new favorite.”
Recipe for Winter Fruit Pie with Citrus Cream
Recipe for Wine Soaked Fig and Arugula Salad
Additional Seasonal Recipes
The folks at Sunsweet have been making our favorite dried fruit for over 100 years!
1. A handful of raisins (or ¼ cup dried fruit) is equal to 1 serving of fruit.
2. Sunsweet processes more than 50,000 tons of prunes a year!
3. Try carrying dried fruit in packs in your car for easy snacking that won’t spoil.
4. Sunsweet was founded in 1917 as the California Prune and Apricot
5. Sunsweet uses steam energy for their fruit dryers and uses all of the fruit “waste” for compost and livestock feed.