[NAFEX] Pluots in Nebraska

William C. Garthright billg at inebraska.com
Mon Sep 28 20:42:36 EDT 2009

This is the result this year of my experiment with three pluot trees 
(the first year I've had fruit) in Nebraska. It's pretty long, so now is 
the time to hit that delete key, if you're not interested. :-)

I planted three pluots (semi-dwarf, on Citation rootstock) in the spring 
of 2007:  Flavor Grenade, Dapple Dandy, and Flavor Supreme. I bought 
them online from Adams Co. Nursery, and they arrived bare root and 
dormant, good-sized little trees but with no branches. I'd never heard 
of anyone growing pluots around here, and most of the people I know had 
never even heard of pluots before. But I thought I'd give it a try.

They grew strongly - very strongly. It's been hard keeping them as small 
as I'd wanted. They haven't had any problem at all with Nebraska's 
climate (I'm in zone 5). They bloomed a bit one year after planting, but 
didn't set on any fruit to speak of - and nothing that got past the 
squirrels. (This year, I put an electric wire around them, which did 
pretty well to keep the squirrels away.)

This year, the Flavor Grenade was the first to bloom, starting on April 
4th, just in time for a cold snap. The temperature dropped to 23° F. at 
the airport a couple of miles away (might have been a bit warmer in my 
yard). That killed all of the blossoms and buds on my apricot trees, but 
it didn't seem to have any effect on my blooming Japanese-American plums 
or on this pluot. But it might have had some effect on the other two 
pluots. At least, they didn't start blooming until 11 days later, and 
they didn't have a whole lot of blossoms even then.

The Flavor Grenade ended up setting on a ton of fruit. I mean, it was 
just solid with fruit. I thinned them a little bit, but not much (not 
enough, I suspect), and the tree dropped some fruit in July. But there 
was still a LOT of fruit on it, and they were quite large, too. The 
other two, which bloomed late, set on much less fruit. The Flavor 
Supreme set on only three fruit (and I knocked one of them off the tree 
while mowing the lawn). The Dapple Dandy set on maybe two dozen or so 
pluots. I had some fruit drop with that one, too, and birds destroyed 
some, so I didn't get an accurate count.

OK, as far as ripening goes, the Flavor Supreme took me by surprise. 
Remember, this was one of the late blooming pluots, and the tree with 
only two fruit on it. On July 15th, I was walking past and noticed that 
one of the fruits was dead ripe. It had split at the bottom, and I don't 
think it would have lasted another day. But it was incredibly delicious 
- one of the best fruits I've ever eaten. It was red-fleshed, sweet, but 
not too sweet, and fruity (grocery store pluots I'd eaten were sweet, 
but didn't have much fruit taste). This one really tasted like a fruit - 
like a sweet plum, but better.

I picked the other pluot on the tree five days later. It didn't seem to 
be quite ripe, but the birds had been pecking holes in it, and it was 
raining, so I didn't think it would last any longer. It was good - sweet 
- but it didn't have the really great taste of the first one. I just 
didn't think it was completely ripe (but after my experiences with the 
other two varieties, I've got to wonder).

The other two pluot varieties seemed like they'd never get ripe. They 
looked "almost ripe" for a month or more. (Note that we had an unusually 
cool July and August this year.) I still don't know when I should have 
picked them. I netted the Flavor Grenade when the birds started pecking 
them, but I didn't think there were enough pluots on the Dapple Dandy to 
bother (there were actually more than I thought).

The birds still got inside the netting pretty regularly, and they poked 
holes in a lot of the pluots. And I started losing more and more of them 
to rot (black rot, I think). With the pluots, I didn't have any insect 
problems at all, but the rot just got worse and worse. I was picking 
them up off the ground all the time (cutting the rot off and trying to 
eat the good bits). They were always sweet, right from the start, but 
they just didn't seem... ripe.

Anyway, I finally picked them all in early to mid-September. I was just 
losing too many of them. By then, I was down to maybe three of the 
Dapple Dandy. All the rest had rotted (although I'd eaten parts of 
several of them). This pluot is another red-fleshed variety, but I'm not 
sure I ever ate one that was appropriately ripe. They didn't seem ripe, 
anyway. They weren't as sweet as the others, but they were sweet enough 
to eat. But they seemed green. They weren't completely red inside, they 
were hard, and they just didn't SEEM ripe.

I ate the last one today, after it had been in the refrigerator awhile 
(and then back out on the counter for a couple of days). This one seemed 
to be somewhat over-ripe. It was slightly soft, and all scarlet inside. 
But it wasn't especially sweet (I noticed with the next variety that it, 
too, loses sweetness when it gets too ripe). I just don't know. I was 
eating these things for a month, but I couldn't seem to catch them at 
the right stage of ripeness.

The last variety (the first to bloom), the Flavor Grenade, is a 
yellow-fleshed pluot. It seems very much like a large, very sweet plum. 
As I say, the tree was just loaded with fruit, and they were all big and 
looked great. But they sat for a month without seeming to get any riper. 
And then I started losing more and more of them to rot. I was sampling 
them all that time, and they were very sweet - very, VERY sweet - but 
not much else. Again, they didn't SEEM ripe.

After I picked them, I gave most of them away, and people told me they 
really liked them. To me, they seemed to be extremely sweet, but with 
little "fruit" flavor. Admittedly, I'd eaten so much fruit by then that 
I was getting really tired of... pretty much everything. Maybe that was 
my problem with them. I kept thinking that they needed to ripen more, 
but when I let them sit until they got just slightly soft, they were too 
ripe. At that point, they actually lost their sweetness (except for one 
individual pluot that got soft and then became so sweet that it was like 
eating pure sugar). They weren't terrible, but I just didn't like them 
much. Still, as I say, when I gave them away, people raved about them 
(and usually, when I give away fruit, I never hear a word back).

In summary, the Flavor Supreme ripened very early (perfect timing, 
because none of my peaches or plums were ripe by then) and at least one 
of them was possibly the best fruit I've ever had. But I only got two of 
them from the whole tree.

The Flavor Grenade ripened much, much later (like two months after the 
Flavor Supreme), and it was just loaded with fruit. Really, it was 
remarkable how much fruit - large, beautiful pluots - were on that one 
tree. Plus, cold temperatures didn't seem to bother the blossoms at all. 
But I didn't much like the taste of them. They were very, very sweet, 
but... not much else. (Other people did like them, though.)

The Dapple Dandy ripened very late, like the Flavor Grenade, but it 
didn't set on much fruit. I thought I would like this red-fleshed 
variety better than the yellow-fleshed one, but I didn't actually eat 
one that was especially good. It wasn't as sweet as the others. Of 
course, I didn't have very many of them, not at all. It seemed like this 
variety was the most susceptible to black rot.

Sorry about the length of this, but I thought the details might help if 
someone else was trying to decide about these pluots. This is my first 
year with fruit, so I can't say how much the weather affected things. I 
guess I'll see what happens next year.

Lincoln, NE (zone 5)

PS. I'd be interested in comments about the taste of these three 
varieties, if you're familiar with them. I still don't know what to think.

Our problems are man-made, therefore they may be solved by man. - 
President John F. Kennedy

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