The South African stonefruit season is now reaching its peak and, despite problems caused by the ongoing drought conditions in parts of the country, there are some exciting developments taking place.
One of the leading South African stonefruit specialists, Fruits Unlimited, has for some years been working on developing a range of interspecific speciality fruits, and this programme is showing a great deal of success.
In addition to this, a traditional large, full red plum is also making an appearance, as are more of the red late-season apricots.
Hans Christiaan Muylaert-Gelein, managing director at Fruits Unlimited, said some of the new products from the interspecific programme are now making their mark.
Muylaert-Gelein noted that the company and its grower suppliers have now started harvesting a black pluot alongside a large, deep and fully red plum and increased volumes of its late season red apricots.
“We are currently working with Midnight Gold, a black pluot with very sweet and juicy yellow flesh (brix 15+), he said. "It’s our first proper harvest and the quality is looking excellent.
“Midnight Gold is a strong plum of medium to large size, with a typical, slightly flatter pluot-shape, that can handle long transit times," Muylaert-Gelein continued. "It will be a strong competitor for the mid-tier market.”
He said the company is starting with the red plum, Polaris. “It is a plum bred in South Africa by Stargrow Cultivar Development, which is being commercialised by Fruits Unlimited." Muylaert-Gelein described Polaris as a ‘balanced’ plum with "good acid and sugar ratios".
“We have also started harvesting on our late apricot Faralia, bred by Spanish-French breeder Christian Blois," he explained. “It is magnificent in colour and size and its timing makes it a very sought-after apricot.
"We will harvest Faralia and Farely for the next three weeks. The trees are still young and we know it’s not an easy fruit to produce. Its European heritage demands a sufficient amount of chilling hours. The areas were these varieties can do well will therefore be limited in South Africa.”
What Muylaert-Gelein called the ‘quintessential pluot’, Flavor King, is also coming into harvesting from next week. “This old-faithful has managed, perhaps as the only plum in the world, to deserve its own brand," he added. “We still love the grand-daddy of the interspecific breeding programme and continue to plant it and recommend it to our customers. When Flavor King is in season with its bubblegum aroma, the competition has its work cut out.”