What is a pluot

For a city man like me, there’s no place more bucolic than Clements, California. You’d have to travel east of the small farming town of Lodi, through rolling hills, sprawling farms, and occasional fruit stands to even make it to the town limits.

But once here, you get to see Steve Smit, an organic farmer I met back in college when I’d buy his apples, peaches, and cherries. His farm, Mt. Moriah Farms, grows some of the best pluots on the planet.

What’s a pluot, much of the country might ask? An innovative hybrid of a plum (60 percent) and apricot (40 percent). They started popping up in the 1980s, and then fruit breeding innovation really took off. Now we have apriums (the same hybrid, but dominant apricot), picatums (peach, apricot, plum), mango-peach hybrids, and nectaplums.

Smit shows me around his 16-acre farm, describing how he grows organic pluots and pecatums. Photo by Nicole Smit

Fruit breeding isn’t so new. But what fascinates me is how much science changes the fruits we eat, even the organic-fresh-local-unwashed fruit you get at your farmers market.

“We’ve got a big world to feed, so we do it for lots of reasons,” Smit tells me at his farm. “Better flavor, more shelf time, shipping longer distances.”

I used to work for a peach breeder back when I went to college in this area. We were on the hunt for the perfect peach for canning—a peach that tasted good, ripened on time, had consistent color, was easy to pick, and stayed fresh as long as possible.

Every fruit grower tries to maximize all of those qualities. And when they do, it means better fruit that can travel further distances from the farm. For someone passing through California, it also means some darn good pluots.

The farm’s aim is to implement the best farming practices to keep the trees and land healthy, productive and sustainable. Says Marcel, “We prune our trees and thin the fruit set extensively; our goal is quality, not quantity.”

Over 50 fruits are grown on the Collins’ 63-acre farm. At 21 Acres Farm Market we have a nearly year-round supply of fruit from Collins. Starting with cherries in June, (Jen loves the Sonata), through the summer months with apricots, plums, peaches and hybrids, then on to pears and apples, which close the circle back to cherries. Collins shares a controlled atmosphere warehouse with other local farms to store their apples and pears in best condition. The Pink Lady apples in the Farm Market this spring came from this warehouse and kept especially well.

‘Hybrid’ may be common lingo for a car today, but most of us over 30 relate the term to biology class and experiments with different plants, like peas. Some hybrids are produced “through grafting and natural limb mutations where a tree will take on a different type of fruit on just one branch, then produce a hybrid fruit, usually due to cross-pollination,” explains Marcel. (Look for the grafted apple and pear trees near the entrance to the Farm Market for an example).

Here is where things get complicated – at least in name. Luther Burbank developed the first plum imposter (a straight plum-apricot cross) in the 1800’s. Any cross of these two fruits is technically a plumcot. However, as experiments progressed and different percentages of each fruit were bred over several generations, the names became more nuanced. Floyd Zaiger, a graduate of University of California, Davis and resident of Modesto, California developed and trademarked Pluot in the 1980’s. Zaiger crossed a plumcot with a plum resulting in a pluot…3/5 plum and 2/5 apricot. Next came the pluot’s opposite, a 70% apricot/30% plum cross, the aprium. Learn more about Zaiger (http://www.davewilson.com/product-information-general/about-zaiger-genetics).

Extrapolate from there and you can begin to fill in the blanks on how Zaiger developed hundreds of other hybrid crosses. Collins grows pluot and aprium varieties, but also nectarcots, and the trifecta, peacotums. Each year, the Collins family grows around 10 different hybrid varieties. Experiments are conducted to refine their search for the perfect fruit. A small block of the orchard is set aside for testing new varieties by grafting to existing trees or planting new fruits. “To earn their keep, new fruits must grow well in our climate and taste great!” says Marcel. Which are the favorites in the Collins orchards? Both are pluots according to Marcel – the Flavor Grenade or Hawaiian Punch. My favorites? An easy call; I prefer the aprium varieties which ripen first and kick off the stone fruit season.

Although the hybrid fruits have a shorter storage-life than their non-imposter cousins, they have their advantages. Marcel explains, “the main advantage is they often fill the times in between other fruits ripening and getting picked when we otherwise wouldn’t have as much variety to sell. The really unique flavors are fun for our customers to try and help set us apart with our large selection of fruits”.

Find the Collins Family Orchards products in the Farm Market all year-round and in many of Seattle’s restaurants, or, ask for more information about their seasonal all-fruit CSA. If you are interested in canning, jamming, freezing or simply gobbling up while the fruit is in season, Farm Market bulk discounts start at 20+ pounds.

Pluots Availability:
  • summer

ABOUT PLUOTS

A rather unique fruit, the Pluot is a juicy sweet mix of an apricot and a plum. They will have the appearance of a mottled plum. They’ll range in color from a red mottling, to a light yellow-orange. The skin will the tight, and thin, like a plum and be free of the apricot’s fuzz. Unlike the plumcot (another plum-apricot hybrid), the pluot is not a perfect 50-50 mix of plum and apricot, rather being 75% plum and only 25% apricot. This is an example of a painstakingly diligent development by Floyd Zaiger of Zaiger Genetics. It was developed in 1989 under very precise temperature control, with so much attention to delicacy that the pollen was even transferred between plants by use of tweezers. These special fruits are too unique to pass up, be sure to get yours and try their sweet perfection.

PLUOT TASTE & RIPENESS

Pluots will ripen much like a plum, maintaining their tight skin, and giving slightly to gentle pressure. While most people do not bother to peel the thin skin, do remember that there will be an inedible pit in the center.

The Goods: Myths and facts about pluots

The pluot is a fruit that combines the plum and the apricot. The pluot is 60 percent plum and includes more than 20 varieties, each with a unique color and flavor. The pluot is a fruit in the prunus genus, which includes apricots, peaches, cherries and almonds. Alexia Lewis, wellness dietitian in the Department of Health Promotion at the University of North Florida, shares more about this refreshing fruit. In order to include pluot in your diet, a recipe has been provided.

Myth: Pluots are genetically modified.

Fact: Pluots are a cross of two species in the same genus; but they aren’t genetically modified. Floyd Zaiger, a farmer-geneticist, introduced pluots in the 1980s after cross-breeding plums and apricots by hand pollination, not genetic modification.

Myth: Pluots have too much sugar to be healthy.

Fact: The pluot is an easy-to-carry, healthy snack. A pluot has 80 calories, 19 grams of carbohydrate, 3 grams of fiber, 1 gram of protein, no fat, 225 milligrams potassium and 10 percent daily value of vitamin C. With 15 grams of sugar, pluots have more sugar than plums, providing a sweet flavor. The sugar is the natural form of fruit sugar, fructose, and fiber slows down absorption giving pluots a low glycemic index and load, keeping it a healthy option.

Myth: Pluots should be handled like any other fruit.

Fact: Select firm, unblemished fruits with vibrant color. The fruit is ripe when it softens and has a strong fragrant smell. To speed ripening, store in a closed bag at room temperature. Once ripe, store refrigerated for three days. Wash before eating.

Myth: The only way to eat a pluot is fresh and by itself.

Fact: Pluots are delicious on their own and best at room temperature. Their season runs from May to October, when they are in grocery stores and farmer’s markets. This is not, however, the only way to enjoy pluots. Use pluots in pies, chop into salads or use in place of peaches, apricots or cherries. For a new twist on salsa, replace tomatoes with pluots and use as a dip or serve over cooked fish or chicken.

The Goods is a monthly column about food myths and facts by faculty members in the University of North Florida’s Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, which was selected by UNF President John Delaney as a Flagship Program, designed to elevate the program. Have a question about pluots? Contact Alexia Lewis at [email protected]

Pluots (ploo-ahts), a relatively recent addition to the stone fruit family, are an intentional hybrid created by naturally crossing a plum with an apricot using hand pollination. Pluots display more characteristics of plums than apricots, unlike other crosses that exhibit more apricot than plum, such as plumcots or apriums. Pluots are very sweet and intensely flavorful, with the juicy texture and tangy skin of a plum and the floral flavors of an apricot. The fruit is a very good source of vitamins A and C, dietary fiber, protein, potassium, and antioxidants.

A pluot is a semi-freestone fruit, which means it has a pit, but the flesh comes away from it fairly easily in most varieties. Available from late May through September, choose fruit that’s firm, plump and fragrant. Fruits should be firm yet yield to slight pressure; a very hard pluot won’t ripen well.

There are plenty of varieties, in colors ranging from black to green to red. Black pluots are magenta and pale yellow inside and taste the most like plums. Green pluots are green with a red tinge and/or yellowish with pink to pale yellow flesh. Green pluots are very juicy and have a tropical fruit flavor. Red pluots range from dark red to magenta inside and red on the outside. These are strong and often tangy sweet. Plus there is the speckled variety, which is very sweet and juicy, featuring white/pink to dark magenta flesh.

Flavor King Pluot®

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  • Plum Trees

    Another Pluot® selection from Zaiger Genetics. Fruit is reddish-purple with a sweet red flesh. A late season Pluot® ripening in early September, the fruit is medium in size, very firm, with a spicy flavor. Tree is naturally small and requires cross pollination. Santa Rosa plum is a good pollenizer for this variety.

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    About Rootstock

    Our plum and apricot trees are grown on Myrobolan rootstock due to its hardiness and ability to adapt to a wide range of soils. Myro is shallow rooted, yet well anchored and vigorous. The recommended spacing for this rootstock is 12′ between trees and 20′ feet between rows.

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    What is the Difference Between Plums and Pluots?

    Their sweet, floral flavor explodes in your mouth at first bite. The juices trickle down your fingers. You don’t care. Summer’s seductive stone fruits are worth it. These days, plums, peaches, nectarines, cherries, and apricots are mating so much that it’s hard to tell what’s what. There are also pluots, plumcots, and apriums in the mix, and that’s just the start. While we’re an equal opportunity taster, we can help you distinguish these hybrid candies of nature from each other — particularly plums and pluots.

    Plums are just plums, plain and simple. They’re 1 to 3 inches in diameter and round, sometimes oblong, with skin that’s smooth, waxy, and deep purple. The pale flesh is firm and juicy. They have 16 grams of sugar and 26 percent of your daily recommended vitamin C, 13 percent vitamin K, and 11 percent vitamin A. Prunes are dried plums.

    Pluots look like a mottled plum with redder and more amber tones and a pinker flesh, according to Specialty Produce, a family owned and operated food service and retail fresh produce supplier in San Diego, California. The colors can be a range, though, because there are so many varieties, from the popular Flavorosa to the Dapple Dandy. It’s hard to define. One characteristic remains true across the board: The pluot’s flesh is designed to taste even sweeter than plums.

    Plant breeder Luther Burban was the first person to successfully cross plums with apricots in the late 19th century, releasing a few half-plum, half-apricot hybrids, according to Chip Brantley, author of The Perfect Fruit, a book about pluots. He called these hybrids plumcots.

    Then Floyd Zaiger and his breeding company used Burbank’s work for his own experimentation with plum-apricot hybrids. Zaiger trademarked the name pluot (plew-ott), which is mostly comprised of plum. Some people say pluots are 75 percent plum, 25 percent apricot, but there are so many varieties, that’s often not true. Apriums are another hybrid in which the majority is apricot rather than plum. And for those concerned about GMOs, Zaiger develops his hybrid fruits by hand pollination rather than genetic modification.

    Pluots and plums, like other stone fruit, are in season between spring and into fall. Enjoy them whole and unadulterated. But they’re also sumptuous baked, roasted, sautéed, pureed, and cooked for jams, compotes, ice creams, and reductions, according to Specialty Produce’s recommendations. Complementary flavors are vanilla, nutmeg, tropical fruits, chocolate, citrus, basil and chiles. They pair well with pork, lamb, grilled shellfish, and crudo-style seafood. To store, let your plums or pluots ripen at room temperature and store in refrigerator for up to one week.

    Check out a few of our favorite plum and pluot recipes. If you want more, see our gallery of summer fruit desserts.

    1. Plum Buckle with Pecan Topping

    Chowhound

    Made with blueberries traditionally, let’s toss tradition out the window and use plums or pluots instead for our buckle. This cake-like treat is an American classic, but the U.S. is so young, it can get away with changing things up. Get our Plum Buckle with Pecan Topping recipe.

    2. Plum Blossom Cocktail

    Chowhound

    This floral, fruity cocktail is the light, fizzy drink you want when the weather warms and you have a guests over for some outdoor dining and conversation. Get our Plum Blossom Cocktail recipe.

    3. Broiled Pluots with Zabaglione

    Chowhound

    This is a simple, yet sumptuous, Italian dessert that highlights the summer fruit’s sweet, juicy nectar we know and love. The zabaglione involves egg yolks, sugar, and a lot of whisking to make a fluffy confection. Get our Broiled Pluots with Zabaglione recipe.

    4. Grilled Pork Chops with Plum Sauce

    Chowhound

    Pork goes so well with fruit, and plums are no exception. The savory-sweet coupling is complete with this match. Get our Grilled Pork Chops with Plum Sauce recipe.

    5. Pluot-Amaretti Trifle

    Chowhound

    This is a showstopper for your next brunch or dinner party — at least, until you scoop out a serving and it’s a mash of deliciousness. Get our Pluot-Amaretti Trifle recipe.

    — Head photo: The Produce Blog by Rick Chong.

    WTF Is a Pluot?

    Summer is primetime for stone fruits. ‘Tis the season for peaches, plums, apricots, and pluots to appear on grocery-store shelves. But hold up. WTF is a pluot? You might not have ever heard of this stone fruit before, but chances are good that you’ve probably eaten one. That’s because, as Pat Tanumihardja wrote for NPR in 2009, “Pluots now make up a majority of the plum market.” At first glance, a pluot looks like any other plum or nectarine you may have seen. But a pluot is neither a plum nor a nectarine. In fact, as you might be able to tell from the name, a pluot is a hybrid of two different stone fruits: a plum and an apricot.

    Making a hybrid of two stone fruits sounds like the result of some crazy mid-century lab experiment, but calm down. Pluots are not genetically modified, though they are the result of human manipulation. Back in the 1980s, a farmer-geneticist named Floyd Zaiger created the pluot by naturally cross-breeding plums with apricots, and the rest is history. These days, there are several different commercial names and varieties of pluots—including the Dapple Dandy, the Mango Tango, and my personal favorite, the Dinosaur Egg. Many of these were also created by Zaiger and his team over the decades.

    A pluot, however, is not a plumcot—even though the names sound very similar. Only adding to the confusion is the fact that both pluots and plumcots are hybrids of plums and apricots. The difference between a pluot and a plumcot comes down to the genetic blend of plum and apricot in the fruit. A plumcot is half-plum and half-apricot, while the pluot is more plum than apricot, about 75 percent to 25 percent, respectively.

    So the taste of a pluot is more like that of plum than apricot, though it still falls somewhere between the two. A staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle wrote in 2009 that the pluot tasted like a plum but has the “mouthfeel of an apricot.” Kelli Foster explains the taste of pluots for Kitchn by writing, “Pluots don’t have the bitter taste that you can sometimes find with plums.”

    Really, the best way to figure out what a pluot tastes like is to eat a pluot, so it’s a good thing stone fruit season is finally here.

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