The New Hybrids: Anarchy in a Fruit Bowl

image via Woosk


This week a New Zealand grower is launching the papple. A tasty but disconcerting eating experience, you look at it and say ‘apple,’ and then proceed to bite rather harder than necessary into its mottled apple-shaped exterior. The flesh says ‘pear’, with its soft, juicy grittiness, but the flavor takes you back again to apple.

Remember when a peach was a peach and a plum was a plum?
Today, there is so much tinkering that fruit varieties are becoming unmoored from their genetics. The produce aisle is so full of apricot-plum hybrids like pluots, apriums, and plumcots, that it’s tough to find the real thing. And even then you can’t be sure; a fruit can be identified as an apricot but still contain some added plum genes that were chosen to create a product that ripens quicker or ships better.

Hybridization is nothing new.
It’s not like the genetic engineering that takes place in a laboratory; hybrids are the result of cross-pollination between plants of the same botanical species. A visit from birds, bees, or just a strong breeze can make it happen naturally in the fields. Even intentional hybrids, helped along by human intervention, have been around for centuries.

Did you know that these are hybrids?
a cross between raspberries, blackberries, and loganberries that was first cultivated in 1920 by a Mr. Boysen. Not to be confused with Mr. Logan’s raspberry/blackberry cross or the similarly crossed Tayberry, unaccountably patented by Mr. Jennings.
Grapefruit: it’s an 18th century hybrid combining the orange and the pomelo. The grapefruit was further crossed with the tangerine to produce the tangelo.
Even the lemon is an ancient hybrid of the orange and the citron.

There are plenty of hybrids that failed to catch on:
the lemon/tomato lemato and the potato/tomato pomato;
lime + kumquat = the limequat;
and the versatile mandarin orange turns lime juice red in the hybrid blood lime, combines with lemon in the lemandarin, and with kumquat in the citrofortunella.
Not on the list—the grapple. It’s a popular grape-apple combination, but it isn’t a hybrid; just an apple pumped full of grape juice.

Look what’s coming:
The pluerry? The cherum?
It’s 50 years in the making, but the developer has yet to settle on a name. A plum/cherry hybrid is finally being grown commercially.

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