What do pluots, nectaplums, and peacharines have in common? (Aside from their weird names…) They’re all hybrid stone fruits that have been cross-pollinated the old-fashioned way to create fun new summer fruits to whet our appetites. The stone fruit category includes apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums, and cherries—that is, fruit with pits. Their wacky-sounding offspring include:
- Pluots and plumcots (plums + apricots)
- Peacotums (peaches + apricots + plums)
- Pluerries (plums + cherries)
- Apriums (apricots + plums)
- Nectaplums (nectarines + plums)
- Peacharines (peaches + nectarines)
Despite their oddball names, stone fruits can be used interchangeably, so don’t be shy about trying these new fruits! Their main characteristic is that they tend to have thinner skins than traditional plums, so these hybrids often taste sweeter and are more pleasant to eat out of hand. Since their skins are more tender, you don’t need to peel them, either, which means they contain more fiber and nutrients. (Unpeeled fruit is almost always a better bet health-wise.) And because red-fleshed produce has more antioxidants than pale-fleshed varieties, many of these hybrids are bred to have ruby interiors, making them stunning in cobblers and fruit salads.
You might also see stone fruits labeled as “clingstone” and “freestone.” That refers to how firmly the pit is embedded—a clingstone peach, for example, has a pit that will be difficult to cut out of the fruit, while a freestone peach pit will almost drop out of the peach once you cut it in half. If you’re making pies or anything that involves removing the pits, you might want to opt for freestone fruits.
For folks who prefer to avoid GMOs, remember that these are not genetically modified fruits—they’re selected and cross-pollinated by fruit growers with an eye towards creating blended flavors and appearances. Fun fact: nectarines and peaches are the same fruit, but the “fuzzy” gene is turned off for nectarines and on for peaches. They naturally grow both ways, so it isn’t surprising that avid stone fruit breeders keep coming up with new farmer-made hybrids.
Ways to use traditional and new stone fruits this summer:
- Bake them into tarts, cobblers, and crisps
- Cut them in half and slap them on the grill
- Make them into refreshing fruit soup
- Toss them into fruit salads (bonus: stone fruits won’t brown)
- Cook them down into jams and sauces (especially good to do when they’re super ripe)
- Use them in place of tomatoes in salsa
- Make them into chutneys to serve as condiments with main dishes
- Enjoy them just as they are!