August 21, 2014 at 1:00 am

Pluots a sought-after treat for the summer

Pluots, relative newcomers to the spectacular lineup of summer fruits, are among the most tantalizing, yet difficult to identify because each of the many plum-apricot hybrids, from pluots and plumcots to apriums and apriplums, include dozens of varieties that are both similar and unique. Developed in the late 1980s, sweet, juicy and nutritious pluots have quickly become a sought-after summer treat.

Most often confused with the plumcot, which is a 50-50 split between a plum and apricot, the pluot is more plum than apricot. Natural cross breeding (not through genetic modification) is used to develop the more than 20 pluot varieties, which can vary from 75 percent plum and 25 percent apricot to 60 percent plum and 40 percent apricot. Common varieties include Dapple Dandy (also known as Dinosaur Egg), with mottled pale green/yellow or red skin with firm, pink flesh; Flavor Grenade, an oblong green fruit with red blush and yellow flesh; and Flavor Heart, large, black, and heart-shaped with yellow flesh. Pluots are light on calories: Two of them have 12 percent DV (Daily Value, based on 2,000 calories per day) of satiating dietary fiber and 10 percent DV of antioxidant vitamin C.

Pluots are so new that they have yet to be analyzed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for nutrition content, yet experts believe they share a blend of benefits from plums and apr­i­cots. They each contribute im­mune-stren­gthening vitamin C, eye-protecting vitamin A, and heart-healthy dietary fiber and potassium to the hybrid fruit. In add­ition, plums and other stone fruits contain compoun­ds, such as anthocyanins, quercetin derivatives, and catechins that can help fight metabolic syndrome, according to a study in a 2012 issue of Texas A&M AgriLife Communications.

If you’re lucky, several varieties of pluots — delightfully colored and uniquely flavored — are on your local marketplace shelves this summer. Select those that catch your eye, are most fragrant, and give to slight pressure. Handle pluots gently, like plums. Showcase their sweetness sliced into cool summer salads, ice creams, fruitsicles and smoothies. Puree sliced pluots to make a naturally sweet syrup for whole grain pancakes, or a fruity, savory barbecue sauce to serve with lean poultry and meats.

Notable nutrients

Pluots, 2 (about 5 ounces)

Calories: 80

Dietary fiber: 3 g (12 percent DV)

Vitamin C: 6 mg (10 percent DV)

Potassium: 226 mg (6 percent DV)

www.environmentalnutrition.com