KyaemonJuly 18, 20107min80

Peacotum – a triple treat from the garden

A triple-header of a hybrid fruit – touted as the first three-in-one ever – has made cameo appearances at a few markets in the Bay Area. The ‘Bella Gold’ peacotum is a cross of peach, apricot and plum. While the fruit’s season is winding down, come fall, the trees will be available for home orchards.

More than a decade in development, peacotum is a creation of Zaiger’s Genetics Inc., which relies on natural methods, rather than genetic modification. Like other Zaiger fruit, it’s grown and sold exclusively by Dave Wilson Nursery in Hickman (Stanislaus County). Inventor Floyd Zaiger and his three children have patented or have in the application process more than 500 new fruits.

While a couple of peacotums – ‘Bella Cerise’ and ‘Bella Royale’ – have been released to the commercial market, ‘Bella Gold’ is being introduced exclusively for home gardeners. ‘Bella Gold’ bare-root fruit trees will be delivered with other tree shipments to garden centers stocked by Dave Wilson Nursery in the fall.

This month, shoppers at several produce venues in the Bay Area may find it, but perhaps listed as a plum derivative.

“It’s a keeper,” says wholesaler Joe Farray Jr. of Petra Produce Inc. in South San Francisco, which distributes ‘Bella Gold’ to Bay Area markets.

Farray is a 35-year veteran of the produce industry, and while it was news to him that ‘Bella Gold’ contained peach traits, he likened the juiciness of the flesh to that of a peach.

There are people who prefer their fruit with a bit of a sour kick – or acidity – and those who prefer sweet. Home gardeners have the advantage of picking their fruit at various stages of maturity. Fruit for the commercial market must withstand handling, transportation and storage before it reaches store displays, so it cannot be ripe when it is picked.

Artisan stone-fruit grower Andy Mariani of Andy’s Orchard in Morgan Hill is acquainted with the peacotum and says that when it is picked later in its ripening cycle, “you can almost taste every element in it.”

“It’s a mellow-tasting fruit – I like it,” said Frank Benevento III, a third-generation commercial stone-fruit grower in San Benito County.

At the point when the smooth, deep yellow/dark blush skin gives when pressed lightly, the flesh is the color of a ripe peach. But the lush interior may be the only “peachy” thing about it.

At informal tastings of ‘Bella Gold’ conducted for this article, none of the six tasters detected a peach flavor. Most identified the plum aspect; two detected apricot.

It is not a self-pollinator, so Dave Wilson staffers recommend pairing it with the nursery’s ‘Flavor Grenade’ pluot (plum/apricot blend), which matures in the middle of August.

The peacotum requires 500 chill hours – the amount of time the temperature must fall between 32 and 45 degrees in a season for trees to break dormancy and set fruit. Most of Northern California receives 800 to 1,500 hours of chill each winter.

— Experts put peacotum to the taste test. Page L2

Putting peacotum to the taste test

Six tasters, half of them associated with the California Rare Fruit Growers, sampled ‘Bella Gold’ peacotums at several stages of ripeness at blind tastings. Here are the results:

Appearance: The majority gave ‘Bella Gold’ high ratings for its tropical good looks. A couple said it looked like a pluot.

Texture: Good marks all around. One described the skin as “oily” and another regarded it as “chewy.” At its ripest stage, the fruit’s flesh was described by one taster as “melting” in the mouth.

Acidity: “Good” was the consensus, with a proper balance for delicious flavor.

Sweetness: Marks ranged from moderate to good.

Maturity: At the firm stage – where fingers could not dent the fruit – it was difficult to slice the peacotum because the pit was lodged tightly in its center. When the fruit was soft but smooth and even all over, the pit slid out when sliced. One taster considered it “near its peak.”

Final words: “Plum flavor, some apricot.” “Seems like a pluot – three-quarters plum and one-quarter apricot.” “Nice plum flavor and aroma.” “I can’t taste anything but plum.” Four said other fruit would get priority for their garden. One said he might plant one, and commercial stone-fruit grower Benevento said, “I’d buy a couple for my yard.”


Wholesaler Dave Wilson Nursery supplies many garden centers in the greater Bay Area. (800) 654-5854.

Fruit tree information for home gardeners:, click on the “tree selection” link.

Palo Alto writer Laramie Trevino is a master gardener with the University of California Cooperative Extension and a garden coach/adviser. E-mail her