Soon after non-Indians settled the Healdsburg area in the late 1850s, they found that anything grows in Sonoma County’s fertile soil.
Grapes, lumber and hops were Healdsburg’s biggest cash crops until The Volstead Act (Prohibition) eliminated commercial wine and beer making in 1919. Vineyards were then uprooted and replaced with orchards.
To replace the grapes and hops, French plums were planted in such abundance surrounding Healdsburg that the town became known as “the buckle of the prune belt.”
Plums became a huge profit crop, as prunes (dried plums) were a fruit that could be transported and had shelf life in an age when refrigeration wasn’t common.
Kelseyville, in neighboring Lake County, had a similar history, though its vineyards were replaced with pear orchards whose fruit was canned and also exported, earning Kelseyville the sobriquet, “pear capital of the world.”
Both towns began replacing orchards with vineyards, starting in the 1980s, as wine consumption increased and consumption of dried and canned fruit declined.
Colorful remnants of the region’s orchard days remain in downtown Healdsburg where pear trees (the flowering variety) line its streets. Color spotter Anson Davalos found them at peak this past weekend.
We know of no plums growing in Kelseyville, though pears remain an important product, especially when combined with wine, as noted in this Sunset magazine article.
Healdsburg, Sonoma County (105′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Pears