Floyd Zaiger, father of the pluot, aprium, and others
August 24, 2009 3:09 PM   Subscribe

Many of you have probably eaten a pluot, and you're probably aware that it's a cross between a plum and an apricot. But were you aware that there are also apriums , plumcots, and even a peacotum? Pluots, apriums, and the peacotum are all developed by Zaiger's Genetics, a family fruit breeder that is also responsible for the white nectarine (the plumcot is a much older cross, developed by Luther Burbank).

All of Zaiger's varieties are distributed by Dave Wilson Nursery, which has an impressive list of the fruits he's developed. There's even a book about the pluot.
posted by pombe (36 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Those hybrid names all sound like some horrible crotch fungus.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:22 PM on August 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

Pluots are delicious. I wonder if people have been talking about them recently because they've been showing up at Whole Foods, or vice-versa.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:29 PM on August 24, 2009

I always want to say "ploo-OH", but the cashier always says "ploo-OTT", which, clunk. Thud. Scrumptious, in any case.
posted by everichon at 3:34 PM on August 24, 2009

I think they're just showing up a WF because they're in season and don't store very well. They're also about half of the mass of last week's farmer's market around here along with peaches and other stone fruit.
posted by GuyZero at 3:38 PM on August 24, 2009

Never heard of them, I'll have to check for them next time I'm at a larger supermarket. I'm sure that the cashier will know how to pronounce them either since they usually have trouble identifying plums.
posted by octothorpe at 3:39 PM on August 24, 2009

White nectarines are awesome.

That is all.
posted by jquinby at 3:48 PM on August 24, 2009

My girlfriend's got the plumcots at the moment, so I have to be real quiet around her while she eats all the chocolate.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:48 PM on August 24, 2009

Of course it's ploo-OTT. You don't call an apricot an apri-COH, do you?
posted by zsazsa at 3:50 PM on August 24, 2009

I think they're just showing up a WF because they're in season and don't store very well.

Well, the reason I said that is because I had never seen or heard of a pluot before this summer, and then all of a sudden.... boom! Everybody's talking about pluots. Still, I'm not complaining.

Seriously, if you've never had one, you should try it. They're like plums, only better.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:51 PM on August 24, 2009

I ate a pluot the other day. I had no idea it was some sort of freaky frankenfroot. I was quite tasty :)
posted by supermedusa at 3:51 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

IT was quite tasty also...
posted by supermedusa at 3:51 PM on August 24, 2009

my first pluot was purchased from whole foods at least 3, probably more like 5 years ago. delicious. i think they were called dinosaur eggs instead of their real name.
posted by nadawi at 3:55 PM on August 24, 2009

So, a peacotum is presumably a pea crossed with something....?
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:07 PM on August 24, 2009

Apparently it's a peach / apricot / plum but it sounds a bit too much like a peach crossed with a rectum to my ears.
posted by GuyZero at 4:09 PM on August 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

From the family fruit breeder link:
Floyd Zaiger, a Modesto, Calif., inventor and the most prolific fruit breeder in the world, created the peacotum. His family-owned company, Zaiger's Genetics, has patented more than 200 new varieties of fruit, all through conventional pollination. (Despite the company's name, Zaiger performs no genetic modification; instead he accelerates the natural selection process through hand-pollination.)
These aren't any more "frankenfoods" than corn is. Just for clarification.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:10 PM on August 24, 2009

"A Peach Crossed With A Rectum To My Ears" was a Neutral Milk Hotel b-side, right?
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:10 PM on August 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

So, a peacotum is presumably a pea crossed with something....?

It's penis-anus-scrotum, obviously.

With fungus.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:11 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Pluots taste as good as the tree ripened plums of my childhood... red inside, and sweeet!

Apriums taste more mealy, like a good apricot.

Then there's the grapefruit and orange hybrid, kinda greeny yellow, but you don't need any sugar. So good!
posted by Jinx of the 2nd Law at 4:13 PM on August 24, 2009

Metafilter: like a peach crossed with a rectum.

Rectum? Damn near killed 'em!

posted by jquinby at 4:21 PM on August 24, 2009

I had some plumcotts when I was visiting a friend in Huston. We kept wanting to call them "Plumquats"
posted by delmoi at 4:32 PM on August 24, 2009

I call them "ew, fruit", and get another candy bar.
posted by qvantamon at 4:36 PM on August 24, 2009

And I'd also like to point out that "grapples" taste like the spawn of the devil.
posted by qvantamon at 4:37 PM on August 24, 2009

The local farmer's market usually has three or four different varieties of pluots, though I think there are more than a dozen. My favorites are the Dapple Dandy, and these are the ones sometimes called Dinosaur Eggs. I buy them by the case and dehydrate them for winter.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 4:39 PM on August 24, 2009

Ugh, yeah, grapples are pretty icky. Then again, they're just apples somehow infused with grape flavoring. You can do much better with the right variety of apple - honeycrisp apples, for example, live up to their name and are wonderful.

I also agree that a nice, ripe pluot is a wonderful thing. We've received some in our CSA boxes over the last couple weeks, and they never last long because they're so juicy and delicious.
posted by evilangela at 4:41 PM on August 24, 2009

I'm currently reading and enjoying the (reviewed in the last link) pluot book by the author of the Slate article, Chip Brantley, which is titled The Perfect Fruit: Good Breeding, Bad Seeds and the Hunt for the Elusive Pluot. It's especially fun for me as I was working at the California Tree Fruit Agreement, the marketing order for California peaches, plums, and nectarines (But not pluots - why? That's part of what Chip needed a whole book to explain...) which figures prominently in the story, at the time Chip was writing the book. It's certainly the first time in my life that I've read a book where I know or have met just about everyone mentioned! And Chip captures the intrigue and insane complexity of stone fruit breeding and the soap opera that is the stone fruit business in an engaging narrative.

93% of the U.S. plum (and nectarine, and 70% of the peach) crop is grown in California, almost all of it in two central CA counties - Fresno and Tulare. Peach, plum, and nectarine growers generally have a large number of varieties planted, because each variety ripens in its own 10-day to two-week window during the course of the season. (The season runs roughly May-October.) And stone fruit isn't like apples - it can't be stored for later sale - so when it comes ripe, it has to be sold right away, and that makes it a high-stakes business, made worse by the fact that some popular varieties are widely planted, meaning there are parts of the season where the supply is relatively low and parts where it's utterly flooded.

So when growers pick and plant varieties, they're looking for great fruit that ripens at just the right time. If a stone fruit grower bets on a bad variety - one that turns out not to grow well or taste good or ship well - it's a long-term loss. A newly planted tree takes several years to come to peak bearing - if you have to replace it, you've already lost several years on it and then you'll lose several years more bearing while a newly planted variety grows in. So breeding and planting good varieties is incredibly important.

And the difficulty doesn't end when the fruit gets picked and packed and shipped, either. One of our ongoing struggle at the Tree Fruit Agreement was trying to get retailers and consumers to understand how to care for stone fruit so it'll come out tasting good. (Briefly: don't put it in the fridge until it's ripe - that'll make it mealy. Once it's ripe, it's fine to pop it in the fridge - it won't hurt it.) One of my favorite things we did to that end was this Cal State PPN website, which covers a ton of info in an illustrated, breezy way.

All in all, it was a fascinating (and delicious) business to be in, and Chip's book captures it well. I'm so glad he wrote it - these fruits deserve better understanding (and wider consumption!) than they currently have, and he's done a great job of illuminating them and the people close to them.
posted by jocelmeow at 4:56 PM on August 24, 2009 [10 favorites]

Those hybrid names all sound like some delicious crotch fungus.

Fixed that for you.

I just picked up some pluots and a couple of strange hybrids just the other day (from Russo's in Watertown for the Boston-enabled)
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 5:26 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Those hybrid names all sound like some horrible DELICI...dammit!
posted by DU at 5:42 PM on August 24, 2009

Mmmm, pluots and white nectarines. They are my favorites things to eat during the summer. I ate so many of them when I was pregnant with my daughter that I joked that she was made of at least 25% stone fruit.

I first heard of pluots maybe 5 years ago thanks to this guy, who at the time was working at a fruit stand that went to different farmer's markets in the LA area. He was a great evangelist for whatever was in season, and would always take the time to tell you how to pick the best fruit and even pick out fruit for you.

Coincidentally, I picked up a giant bag of white nectarines and various pluot varieties last week at a local farmer's market. The Emerald Gems and Flavor Grenades were my favorite, and I got some Flavor Kings and Dapple Dandys for my husband. Stick 'em in the fridge, they last longer.

Here's to you, Mr. Zaiger. Keep up the good work!
posted by mogget at 6:22 PM on August 24, 2009

And they're all almonds! 'strue.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 6:25 PM on August 24, 2009

Is true! I spent this last spring eating WAY too many fresh green almonds. It's just a peach without the sweet!
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 6:26 PM on August 24, 2009

We had planned to meet in the aprium, but she pluot.
posted by yhbc at 8:50 PM on August 24, 2009

Have any of you seen a dragon fruit. They look really neat and they grow them right here is so cal now

posted by MrTenacious at 12:04 AM on August 25, 2009

somebody's been listening to Dylan's Theme Time Radio hour....

The introductory paragraph from this post is almost verbatim with Dylan's in his radio show.
posted by metaxa at 2:30 AM on August 25, 2009

Have people really been talking about pluots lately? I've been seeing pluots in grocery stores (in Florida, mind you; not like I live in Fresno county) for at least six or seven years. Occasionally you'll get a really good one but I still have better luck with regular plums.
posted by penduluum at 5:35 AM on August 25, 2009

Bleh. They're like plums, only worse. I'd rather have a shiro plum any day of the week.
posted by Caviar at 6:07 AM on August 25, 2009

The Wikipedia entry on Zaiger calls him the 'Albert Einstein of stonefruit.' I love that.

Whole Foods had plenty of pluots and plumcots last summer. If people are talking about pluots lately, I suspect it's either because they're in season, or because they're reached some kind of buzz-fruit tipping point, following in the footsteps of acai, pomegranate, kiwi, etc.
posted by box at 6:17 AM on August 25, 2009

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