New flavors for stone fruits.
* When it comes to stone fruits, flavor is everything. We want our apricots, nectarines, peaches, and plums to taste tangy-sweet or sweet, and we want them juicy. That's why new varieties of these fruits regularly come and go. Very few introductions actually revolutionize fruit breeding and fruit flavor. But pluots (apricot-plum hybrids) and new varieties of white-fleshed peaches and nectarines, developed by stone-fruit breeder Zaiger Genetics in Modesto, California, have changed all that.
These fruits break all standards for flavor. In taste tests, they're the fruits people choose over tree-ripened apricots, yellow peaches, and most plums, says Craig Minor, wholesale sales manager at Dave Wilson Nursery in Hickman, California.
We couldn't resist tasting these new fruits at Sunset. Our tasters' favorite varieties, along with some of their comments, are listed at right. Now is the time to plant one of these outstanding trees in your own garden.
PLUOT: A SWEET TASTE TREAT
Bite into a sweet, succulent, tree-ripened pluot (pronounced plu-ott) and your mouth tingles with pleasure as aroma, flavor, texture, and sugar-acid balance come together.
The Zaigers introduced their first pluot - a cross between plums and apricots, and hybrids of the cross - just nine years ago. "Pluots have a higher sugar content than either plums or apricots," says Leith Zaiger Gardner, general manager and daughter of Floyd Zaiger, who developed the fruit. "They've also lost the sour characteristics of plums. The skins aren't as puckery."
Appearance differs by variety. Some pluots are greenish, others are purplish like plums, and one is yellow.
NEW PEACHES AND NECTARINES: SUPERSWEET OR SWEET-TART
Give anyone a tree-ripened 'Arctic Supreme' peach or 'Heavenly White' nectarine and it will elicit a big "Wow!" Like the best of the best yellow peaches and nectarines, the white-fleshed varieties are simply sublime - sweeter, more delicately flavored, and more aromatic than many yellow-fleshed kinds.
As a group, white-fleshed peaches and nectarines aren't new. 'Babcock' peach has been around for years. Like other old white varieties, its fruits bruise more easily than yellow types, so they don't often show up in markets. When they do, they're usually immature (hard) and tasteless. (Gardeners have better luck with these varieties than commercial growers do, since they can handle the fruits with care.)
But new developments by Zaiger Genetics have led to some tremendous improvements in flavor and, in some cases, durability. Now gardeners can choose between subacid and balanced-acid white peaches and nectarines - much like choosing between sweet and tart apples. Subacid fruits taste very sweet (which only a few of our tasters preferred), while balanced-acid fruits have a more favored sweet-tart flavor. Unlike the balanced-acid types, the subacids can be harvested while slightly firm; at that stage they're already fairly sweet.
TREES ARE EASY TO GROW
Pluot trees grow more like plum than apricot trees. They are easier to grow than other stone fruits, adapting to a wide variety of soils and climates. If you can grow 'Santa Rosa' plum in your climate (Sunset zones 2-3, 7-12, and 14-23), you can grow pluots. But in the low desert and in Southern California's mildest coastal areas, pluot trees don't get enough winter chill to produce fruit.
Pluot harvest lasts about four weeks. All varieties become sweeter if they hang on the tree as long as possible within their harvest range.
Peaches and nectarines grow well in cooler climates, from Northern California to the Pacific Northwest. 'Arctic Glo' and 'Snow Queen' also grow in most areas of Southern California, except directly on the coast.
'Dapple Dandy': "Slightly spicy, almost cinnamony." "Sweet-tart and juicy." Harvest: August.
'Flavor King.': "Almost tropical-tasting." "Strong plum aftertaste." Harvest: August. 'Flavor Supreme': "Tastes like a plum, but tartness is softened." "Complex flavors." Harvest: June.
Peaches & nectarines
'Arctic Supreme' peach (semi-freestone): "Perfect balance between sweet and tart." "Real peachy flavor." Harvest: late July to mid-August.
'Heavenly White' nectarine (freestone): "Excellent sweet-tart balance." "Very floral." Harvest: mid-July to early August.
'Arctic Glo' nectarine (clingstone): "Wonderful sharp, intense flavor." "Good balance." "Smooth texture." Low chill. Harvest: late June to late July.
'Snow Queen' nectarine (freestone): "Perfumy." "Sweet, but not too sweet." Low chill. Harvest: mid-June to mid-July.
'Arctic Queen' nectarine (freestone): "Very sweet and floral." "Almost too sweet." "Strong nectarine flavor." Harvest: August.
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|Title Annotation:||fruit-tree gardening during winter|
|Author:||Swezey, Lauren Bonar|
|Date:||Feb 1, 1998|
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