Q. We have had several trees die over the past year so we are looking for replacements that will do well here. We do have a Kiefer pear which produces really small, rock hard pears that never seem to ripen. Some suggestions please for almond, nectarine, pluot and apricot.
A. If I were to plant only one almond tree, it would be Garden Prince. It is smaller than the other almond varieties and the flower is a beautiful purplish white instead of plain white. For a home landscape that needs a smaller-sized tree, beautiful flowers and wonderful nuts, Garden Prince can't be beat. It is self-pollinating so doesn't need a second almond for pollination.
|Almonds in bloom at UNCE orchard|
Arctic Star nectarine has a remarkable flavor in our climate. It is floral, buttery and one of the best fruits I have ever tasted. It makes wonderful sorbet. But you must remember that you will have problems with thrips with that will result in horrible scarring of the fruit if you don't keep it under control. It must be sprayed.
|Nectarines at the UNCE Orchard.|
Remember that pluots require a pollinator tree for improved fruit set. A good pollinator for pluot is also a great plum for our area called Santa Rosa. If you already have a Santa Rosa plum or your neighbor does, you don't need a pollinator tree for pluot.
Among the pluots, the best tasting in my opinion is Flavor Supreme. Second on my list would be Flavor King. The problem we have had with Flavor Supreme is low fruit production even with a pollinator. Flavor King has such a large fruit set, it must be thinned.
|Flavor Supreme Pluot at the UNCE orchard|
The second problem with all pluots is our late spring freezes in the developmental fringes of our valley which are typically colder.
When we get a freeze and they are in flower, you probably will not get any fruit that year. So expect fruit in two or three years out of every five if you live in these colder fringe areas of the Valley.
A great apricot, that is not really an apricot but a cross between an apricot and plum, is the aprium. The fruit looks identical to and is marketed commercially as an apricot. It has flavor attributes of plum and apricot in the fruit. The best aprium out there is called Flavor Delight which will be available from the UNCE Orchard.
|Flavor delight aprium 15 yrs old kept at 7 feet height at the UNCE Orchard|
Your Kiefer pear is very different from pears like Bartlett or d’Anjou which are desert pears. Desert pears will get soft and buttery in texture if you harvest them slightly early and let them ripen at room temperature off the tree. Kiefer pear is a salad pear that is also great for canning and used in stuffing for fowl like turkey or chicken.
|Keiffer pear ready for harvest. Note the color change.|
Kiefer pear should be harvested just like you would a desert pear. To judge when to harvest I use a change in color of the fruit and smell. The fruit color will change from green to yellowish green and you will detect a distinct pear aroma from the fruit. They will still be hard when harvested.
|Bartlett pear ready to be eaten and should not be harvested at this stage but earlier when there is still a hint of green|
You can also sacrifice a fruit and to cut it open and check the color of the seeds. They should be dark brown when the fruit is ready to harvest. But if you compare Kiefer pear with a desert pear, you will be very disappointed. They are both great, but in different ways.