Are you a gourmet ? So are the inhabitants of Coeur de Bastides, and they are proud to make you discover their specialties!
The prunes of Agen are a specialty of the Lot-et-Garonne, it benefits from a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). It is a dried fruit made from the ‘prune d’ente’ (plum).
The harvest takes place between mid-August and mid-September ; then the plums are washed, sorted and measured. They are spread out on racks and dried in the oven for 20-24 hours at 70-80 ° C.
All this must be carried out as quickly as possible: max 24 hours after harvesting. It is necessary to preserve the aroma and the internal color of the fruit, while avoiding its caramelization, which would give it a brownish tint. The farmers must therefore ensure that the internal temperature of the fruit does not exceed 73 ° C during drying.
It takes between 3 and 3.5 kg of fresh plums to obtain 1 kg of prunes.
Plum seeds came to Europe from China, transported by merchants over the Silk Road to Damascus in Syria.
The cultivation and drying of the plum spread over the Mediterranean area by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and the Arab civilization. The Romans planted plum trees in Gaul, but it would be mainly thanks to monks that the seeds would really spread and be cultivated in France. The Benedictine monks of the Abbey of Clairac (in the Lot-et-Garonne) brought back the plum trees that we know, on their return from the Crusades in the 12th century. As for the origin of the name "prune d´Ente", it comes from the old French word ‘enter’, which means to graft: the monks grafted the trees to make them bear fruit.
Prune cultivation developed in the 16th century, thanks to local know-how on growing and drying. But the real boom in production started in 1850, and at the end of the 19th century: at that time 60,000 tonnes of prunes were produced!
The ‘prune d'ente’ variety then became produced more than the other varieties, and the production was mainly exported on the Garonne, to Bordeaux. In Agen, the wooden boxes containing the fruit, were stamped with the name of the port of embarkation: Agen. This is how the prunes of Agen became popular!
The first and second world war were bad for the production of the prunes ; production started again in 1947. Today, average annual production is around 45,000 tonnes. The Agen Pruneau sector is the number one in Europe and the third in the world behind the United States and Chile. This sector employs 18,000 people in France.
Yes ! The Grand Pruneau Show takes place during the last weekend of August in Agen, and the Fête du Pruneau takes place the second weekend of September in Saint-Aubin (11 km from Monflanquin, 24 km from Villeréal).
The prune can be eaten as it is, or, for example, coated with a thin slice of smoked bacon, as an aperitif. You can add it to many dishes, savory or sweet: tajine, roast meat, stewed meat, muffins, clafoutis, cakes, ‘far Breton’ ...
Meet the prune farmers here:
Click here for the ‘Prunes d'Ente’ circuit: during 52 km you can visit the most beautiful villages and meet with the farmers !
For more information, click on: https://www.jardinsdefrance.org/le-sechage-de-la-prune-dente-au-pruneau-dagen/
Photos credits : OTCB