NOB HILL--I was down at La Montanita Co-op yesterday looking for a piece of fruit. And there they were: 2 different varieties of pluots. It stopped me cold. What in hell is a pluot? Now I could figure out that they were some sort of plum/apricot combination. But I had questions. For one thing, my Stark Bros. catalog had come this week and I am thinking of ordering a dwarf aprium tree. An aprium is another kind of plum/apricot. And then there is the plumcot, originally invented by Luther Burbank in the early 20th century.
Pluots and apriums are trademarked varieties invented by Floyd and Betty Zaiger. Their firm is called Zaiger Genetics, although NO genetic engineering is involved. The main contribution of the Zaigers has been in the efficiency and innovative structure of their cross-breeding program. Even so, it took 20 years to turn out the first proto-pluots. But now it turns out that the Zaigers are at the forefront of a revolution in the plum and apricot industry, what they call interspecifics, with all kinds of new fruit such as the pluot and aprium coming to market. The hallmark of all these is the enhanced sweetness of the fruit...about 20 - 30% sweeter.
Pluots are 70% plum and 30% apricot. They have the smooth skin of a plum, but are sweeter than either a plum or an apricot. There are about 15 varieties and La Montanita Co-op carries at least two of them. Dapple Dandy, considered by many to be the best tasting of all pluots, is selling for the attention-grabbing price of 5 bucks a pound.
Apriums have the fuzzy skin of an apricot with some of the sweetness and juiciness of a plum. The Stark Bros. catalog says they are 75% apricot, 25% plum. Now that sounds pretty good. I think I'll order one. The price from Stark Bros. is $21.99 for the dwarf size. Their "supreme dwarf," a larger pre-pruned super-straight tree, sells for $28.99.
By the way, I love Stark Bros. nursery. This spring I ordered 4 trees and 3 varieties of grapes. They were all bareroot plants. All are doing super. And in fact the grapes are actually doing better that the potted grape plant I purchased at the same time from Rowland's. Also, for ordering that much I got as a free gift 10 everbearing strawberry plants which have grown and filled in my whole raised bed with the healthiest, most luscious looking plants imaginable.