Anyone in the produce aisle could be faced with these dilemmas: There are pluots and plumcots and apriums, in shades of green and purple and orange that suggest either -or neither- plums or apricots. Which will you choose? Here’s a quick breakdown of the differences:
- Plumcots are 50-50 crosses between plums and apricots.
- Apriums are more apricot than plum and tend to have slightly fuzzy skins.
- Pluots are more plum than apricot and have smooth skin.
These aren’t genetically modified, either: They’re the result of natural breeding. When an apricot loves a plum very, very much (and with the help of a plant geneticist), you get a tree full of baby apriums or plumcots.
But there’s more to it than just percentages. Within each category, there is variety: more than a dozen plumcot or pluot breeds such as the “Dapple Dandy” or the “Flavor Grenade,” all of which have a different flavor, appearance and fleshy interior color. They can be purple with orange spots and bright red flesh, or green on the outside and yellow on the inside, and they’ll still be a plumcot.
The plumcot is attributed to California horticulturalist Luther Burbank, who experimented with cross-pollinating the plants in the late 1800s. Horticultural geneticists have also crossbred plumcots with certain types of plums or apricots to bring out other characteristics, including sweetness or a certain color of flesh or durability.
In the 1980s, fruit breeder Floyd Zaiger created the pluot, crossbreeding plumcots with plums to boost the plum flavor. He later trademarked the terms pluot and aprium as well as the “NectaPlum® (nectarine-plum), Peacotum® (peach/apricot/plum), Pluerry™ (plum-cherry).” Only the varieties developed by the Zaigers can carry these names.
But all of these crossbreeds have created consumer confusion: In the case of pluots, the name is hard for people to pronounce and spell, and it’s hard for the average consumer to tell the difference between pluots and plumcots. If you heard both of those names, which one would you assume was more plumlike? Probably not the pluot.
What’s challenging for consumers is that they all look a little different, they’re only in stores for three or four weeks sometimes. People get in their head what they think a plumcot is, and they go back and they don’t see it anymore.