You may have noticed that we have been delivering juicy, delicious pluots for the past few weeks. These pink fruits are about the size of large plums, but they have a sweeter and more tart flavor than a plum, as well as lighter pink, speckled coloration. The delicious pluot is just one example of a “hybrid” stone fruit, a cross between two different members of the Prunus genus, which includes plums, cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, and almonds.
Plums and apricots often grow in the same climate, and the trees may grow near each other. When this happens, natural hybrids can occur from cross-pollenization. This results in a first-generation hybrid known either as apriplums or plumcots, which are genetically split between apricots and plums. Incidentally, the name “plumcot” was coined by the famed botanist Luther Burbank (who our Mercer Island and Bellevue friends may recognize from his namesake-
Luther Burbank Park). Burbank released several commercial cultivars of these hybrids in the 1920s. However, plumcots and apriplums are sensitive to temperature and bruise very easily in transit, making them a difficult fruit for harvesters to grow and sell for profit.
In the 1980s, the California stone-fruit breeder Floyd Zaiger cross-bred plumcots with plums to form a new hybrid that was mostly plum, with some apricot characteristics. He called this new fruit a “pluot”. Generally, pluots contain about ¾ plum genes to ¼ apricot (though this ratio varies between different varieties). Zaiger and his colleagues went on to develop a number of other specialized hybrids such as the aprium (75% apricot, 25% plum), the nectaplum (nectarine and plum), and the peacotum (peach, apricot, and plum).Today, the most popular variety of hybrid stone fruit is the “dapple dandy” or Dinosaur Egg pluot, which we have been stocking quite bit this summer. Its delicious combination of sweetness and tartness, plus its beautiful rose-colored flesh make it a perfect summer fruit.