One of the reasons we plant fruit trees in our home gardens is to produce and enjoy superior flavored fruit than what is commonly available to us in the supermarkets. Peaches picked at the peak of ripeness have a flavor that is beyond anything available at the store. Fruit varieties grown for the supermarket are developed for their ability to travel long distances and remain attractive to the consumer. While the growers try to incorporate good flavor into the fruit it is often impossible to reconcile the two attributes of taste and transport. If the grower waits until the peak of ripeness the fruit is often too soft to travel. We as home fruit growers can pick the fruit when it has reached the peak of perfection.
Unfortunately most people plant varieties of fruit that have names they recognize from the supermarket. These varieties are the ones developed for the mass market, not for the home grower. So while you can pick the fruit when perfectly ripe, the fruit it self may not be the best tasting available. I know that if I am going to take the time to care for my home grown trees all year I want taste that is going to wow me. I need to pick varieties of fruit for flavor, not commercial success.
Dave Wilson Nursery, Hickman California, grows fruit trees for the garden center trade. Over the last nine years they have conducted what they call “blind” fruit tasting. They invite nursery people and others to taste fruit without knowing what types of fruits or varieties they taste. They offer samples of fruit at the peak of ripeness and ask the tasters to rate these fruits. The ratings are then available to the retail garden centers to help them choose varieties that are exceptionally good flavored. Every year these varieties are offered at the better garden centers their customers. Often the customer still chooses the well-known name over these better tasting but less known varieties.
In the world of peaches one of the top tasting varieties has been ‘Arctic Supreme’. This two-time taste test winner is a large, white fleshed fruit with a red over cream-colored skin. The fruit is sweet and tangy with a fine delicate flavor, and a firm texture. Ever see this one in the supermarket? One of the best tasting of all fruits is the ‘Arctic Jay’ Nectarine. This attractive fruit is firm, richly flavored, with a perfect blend of acid and sugar. These trees were developed by Zaiger farms, a developer of new varieties of fruit trees for the home grower. These and other varieties developed by Zaiger are developed for superior flavor.
Antique varieties are gaining a cult following, much like heirloom varieties of vegetables are. ‘Tydeman’s Late Orange Apple’ was developed in 1945 in England. Richly flavored, firm and juicy, it is considered a connoisseurs’ apple. ‘Calville Blanc Apple’ originated in France in the 1600’s. A classic French dessert apple it is considered the best pie a sauce apple around. These varieties will only be available if you plant them in your yard.