I want to write a Patch blog about picking prunes, something most Santa Clara Valley dwellers did for generations. I’ll submit that article for next time, but before then I must say something to defend my fellow prune pickers.
There is probably not a former prune picker alive who has not been corrected, chastised, or otherwise treated as if he or she was an uneducated country bumpkin for saying that they picked prunes. That is because many people who are not in-the-know are adamant that they know. I know. My own son gave me a rash about this when I set about to write the book, The Last of the Prune Pickers: A Pre-Silicon Valley Story. He insisted, as so many others have, that we had picked plums.
To make matters worse, in recent years the leaders in the industry, tired of their product being associated with the unpleasantness of constipation, have dropped the name “prune” in favor of the name “dried plum.” This has added to the burden of the defense.
The problem is that if you say we picked plums, those of us who did the picking would have something very different in mind.
So, fresh from receiving my son’s chastisement and knowing I would need to address this, I wrote a little poem to settle the matter and placed it right in the front of the book. In good humor, it is my way of saying “touché!”
Not that it will change anyone’s mind.
“Of Plums and Prunes
Prunes are plums, I won’t deny,
But not all plums are prunes.
The kinds that ferment—those are plums;
Those that resist are prunes.
Plums are picked from ladders,
From branches of the tree;
Prunes are picked up off the ground.
This differs too, you see.
Plums are to be eaten fresh;
Prunes are grown to dry.
I hope this explanation helps—
At least I had to try.
Now if you don’t believe me,
With my grammar can’t agree,
Mr. Webster understood these things,
And he will vouch for me.”