A pluot has a complex family tree. It starts off simply enough, just cross an apricot and a plum. Both are stonefruit, both in the Prunus genus, both easily identifiable in the grocery aisle. It is simple to cross-pollinate these fruits. The result is a plumcot, bred over 100 years ago by that Dr. Frankenstein of fruit, Luther Burbank. Next, take the 50/50 plumcot and cross it BACK to a plum to create the pluot (trademark). The pluot is roughly 3/4 plum, 1/4 apricot, which gives it sweeter flesh but keeps the delicious tart flavor and smooth skin of a plum. Along with flavor from both parents it also combines their cold hardiness…while many hybrid plums can grow well in Zone 3 and 4, that little bit of apricot brings the hardiness up to at least Zone 5. Boo.
“But you already have too many fruit trees, why do you want a weird plum thing?” you might ask. Well, the story is short and boring. A friend had gone to the farmer’s market and bought a beautiful speckled fruit that the vendor called a Dragon’s Egg Pluot. I took a bite and it was one of the best fruits I’d ever eaten. I didn’t know the vendor, and while I suspect there is a tree filled with delicious pluots growing somewhere in the Boise Valley, I don’t know how to find it. Should I just learn to be happy with my two hybrid plum trees? I’ve never tasted either a LaCrescent or an Alderman plum. Maybe they are even better than a speckled pluot.
I forgot about the pluot for several months, until last week we went to Costco and they packaged all of our oversized foods into a fabulous purple pluot crate. Oh…how the dancing pluots from Fruitstand Farm (no joke) taunted me. I started researching the Dragon’s Egg Pluot.
And by researching I mean googling.
Eventually I learned that the Dragon’s Egg name is just a nickname, and the tree is actually called the Dapple Dandy. There are several cultivars, all with ridiculous ‘Dapple’ names. Some are quite expensive, a result of smart trademarking by the Zaiger family that worked to develop them. Unfortunately the Dapple Dandies were recommended for Zone 5 at the lowest. Do we all remember the Zone 5 Red Haven peach tree that froze from root to tip the first winter? I’ve learned my lesson, no pushing Zone 5 fruit. (Except the fig, but that’s different!)
Still, this speckled pluot is in the back of my mind. It just had such amazing flavor and distinct markings. Usually we pick our fruit the opposite way…research (google) its hardiness, how long it takes to produce fruit, if the blossoms will be in danger of frost. Will it survive in our garden? What do other growers say about it? THEN we start worrying about the flavor. We tasted our first honeyberries nearly a year after we’d planted 5 of them. We have no idea what seaberries or silver buffalo berries taste like. Most of the apples will be a total surprise! To start with taste and work backwards to survival…well, it’s just not how it happens in this zone.
The Costco box is still on the boot bench, and the snow is piled up past the windows outside. This winter has been worse than usual for the gardening itch. It was a struggle to keep our hens warm when the temperatures were below zero. We’ve been thinking of building a shed, and it’s turning in to an If You Give a Mouse a Cookie scenario…may as well combine a warm chicken coop with a year-round greenhouse, put a rocket mass stove in it, and tack on an overhang for firewood! We might wait a few years to tackle this project, but if the greenhouse is build to store heat, a little pluot tree espaliered against the east wall would probably find itself in a Zone 5 microclimate! Hmmmm….