In the largest mountain range in Serbia you’ll find an area blessed with, on average, 200 sunny days a year with fertile organic soils and numerous microclimates which are perfect for plums. Nicknamed the ‘Mountain of the Sun’, it’s here that you’ll find around 100 small family-run farms growing plums and drying them into prunes for one of our bestselling pouches – Prune & Apple.
Plums are considered one of Serbia’s most traditional fruits and oldest agricultural disciples and it’s in the Kapaonik mountains that this tradition truly thrives. The soil and climate here is ideal for growing organic plums with the high altitude protecting the trees from natural enemies – insects.
Most of the fruit here is still grown, picked and processed by hand and it’s not uncommon for fruit farmers to own cattle so they have easy access to organic manure to enrich and nourish their land naturally for better tasting crops.
Ivan is one of the traditional farmers who we source our organic prunes from and his passion for his work is clear.
“My farm has been passed down the generations from my great grandfather to me so I was practically born in a plum orchard,” he said.
“I love the countryside and the land and living among the people who were born here. The way of life here is much better here [than in a city].”
As well as a passion for growing only the very best prunes, Ivan is dedicated to caring for the land in these special mountains.
“Thirty years ago, many of my orchards weren’t being used for anything,” he said. “Lots of people have abandoned the countryside and moved to the towns so I bought the land, started working it and growing plums on it.”
Ivan is very proud that he is helping to maintain the agricultural status of the area and that he’s turned neglected and often forgotten land into thriving orchards. And it seems it runs in the family; his eldest daughter is currently studying agriculture so she can take over the farm and continue his good work.
Late summer signals harvest time for Ivan and his family, with his wife and daughters chipping in to harvest each plum by hand alongside a small team of seasonal workers.
After being freshly harvested, the succulent glossy plums are taken to the drying barn just down the road, where they are expertly dried using equipment powered by wood. Ivan says this is so the natural cycle still takes place – he burns old plum trees so their wood is not wasted and trades prunes for wood from other local farmers.
Freshly-plucked plums are dried in a giant tunnel-like oven, with one end of the oven hotter (78°C) than the other (55-65°C). Ivan dries his plums in the cooler end of the oven before moving them along to the hotter end after several hours. This gradual process allows to moisture to be coaxed out slowly, creating a tastier, more decadent prune as the sugar caramelises.
“I’ve tasted a lot of prunes and none compare to the ones grown and dried here,” Ivan said.
Despite an indulgent flavour, prunes are one of nature’s nutritional superheroes, full of essential vitamins and minerals and great for digestive health. Ivan said his prunes were also good for bone and joint health.
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