Sunday, March 16, 2008

One of Luther Burbank's Legacies - the Plumcot

Luther Burbank developed more than the potato that feeds those who patronize MacDonalds. Burbank is probably best known to the home gardener for his selection called the "Shasta Daisy".

My plumcot trees are nearly done blooming. Only one light rain during its two weeks of bloom. Heavy crop last year. So, I not sure what amount of fruit I'll have this year.

This tree was developed by our local horticultural wizard Luther Burbank in the early 1900s. This is the first, true hybrid-that I know of-of an  apricot with a plum. He named it 'Apex'. He did countless crosses by hand pollination and grew thousands of seedlings before selecting this fruit. 

The first bite as the sweet, delicate aroma and taste of an apricot. This is quickly followed by the texture and flavor of a yellow Japanese plum. 

The fruit probably never became commercial as the tree blooms very early in the year and fruiting can be wiped by late winter rains, the fruit is a bit small, the flavor is subtle, they don't ship well, and they ripen over a period of weeks. This last one is the deal breaker for commercial success. Having to come back over-and-over to harvest a crop is too costly for "the trade". But this is exactly what makes it such a wonderful tree for my home orchard. I can gather the succulent fruit for weeks. There are countless fruits, nuts, and vegetables that only a gardener can grow and will never be found in a typical supermarket.

There must be be special trees developed near your garden. Let's find out how many selections came from old American orchardists as compared to heritage trees "imported" from Europe and elsewhere we can find. Write me about your favorite fruit or nut. I have plenty more examples of unsung breeders of fruit and nut trees in northern California. Ciao/Chow

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