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Of pluots, apriums and Cherubs

June 23, 2009 |  1:23 pm

FO.0624.CherubClovis.1 Although the area southeast of Fresno is the leading stone fruit growing district in the United States, local residents have long lamented that all the best fruit is shipped out of the area. To encourage them to buy high-quality stone fruit at local stores and farmers markets, and through community supported agriculture, Tom Willey, a vegetable grower and leader of Slow Food Madera, helped organize the second annual Organic Stone Fruit Jubilee in Clovis last Saturday. For a $5 entry fee, visitors could sample fruit from a dozen farms,and buy bags of it to take home.

The most novel and intriguing variety was the plumlike Cherub, actually a hybrid of plum and cherry bred by Zaiger's Genetics of Modesto, best known for creating pluots (plum crossed with apricot, predominantly plum) and apriums (more apricot than plum). Offered by Peterson Family Farm of Kingsburg, Calif.,  through the Abundant Harvest Organics CSA, it looked much like a purple plum, but the yellow-orange flesh, tinged red near the skin, was very sweet, with a hint of cherry flavor. Because plums are more distant genetically from cherries than from apricots, it has taken Zaiger's longer to develop such crosses, but they are starting to be planted commercially, and promise to add sweetness and interesting new flavors to plumlike fruits.

The most flavorful fruit at the tasting was the Carine white nectarine grown by Ted Loewen of Blossom Bluff Orchards in Parlier, Calif. Most white nectarines these days are low in acidity, and correspondingly low in flavor, but this variety, found in a neighbor’s orchard, has a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity, and a rich, lingering aftertaste. The farm will sell it at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza and Berkeley farmers markets this weekend.

Quite a few farms set out slices of fruit that were as hard and crisp as apples, but Laurie Burkart of Burkart Farm in Dinuba, Calif., did a good job of ripening her fruit to a pleasing texture. Her Fancy Lady yellow peaches had classic flavor, and even her June Pearls, mild-flavored low-acid white nectarines, tasted pretty good because they were fully ripe. Burkart sells at the Culver City, Palos Verdes, Torrance, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Hollywood farmers markets.

-- David Karp

Photo of Cherubs by David Karp