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The Pits

By Chris Mittelstaedt

children diggingIt’s summer and I’m 12. We’ve been riding around the block for the last month on our banana-seat bikes. We are a motorcycle gang, with playing cards duct-taped to the back struts of our bike frames, clicking against the spokes menacingly, like souped-up game show prize-wheels letting anyone watering their yard know we are not to be trusted. We’ve carved forts out of bramble mounds along the train tracks that run past the Big Hill. We’ve played jailbreak so many times, we can’t think of any new jails to break. The ennui of summer is starting to set in—Mom wants me outside, and Dad won’t let me use the chainsaw. He does, however, agree to let me use the shovel. “Can I dig a hole in the backyard?” I ask. My friends and I dig out the old sandbox and get three feet down. We cover the top with plywood and leave a small opening for an entrance. After sitting in dirt and leaning against wriggling worm-walls, we decide to carpet. We gather old rug samples and nail them onto the sides of the structure. We need a secret escape tunnel. It should connect to an underground city…

Ah, the future—when you’re 12, it can even live in a pit. And the future does quite literally live in the pits of stone fruits. The pits of peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, and cherries each contain a seed that is the plant’s genetic future. Here are some interesting facts about stone fruit pits:

1. Pits are derived from the ovary wall of the flower as the fruit develops on the tree.

2. Pits contain both an outer shell and an inner seed. It’s the inner seed that needs to break through the shell when planted (or sprouted) in order to start a new seedling that will become a tree. Unlike veggie seeds, which sprout quickly when planted, stone fruit seeds need cool weather dormancy to inspire their sprouting process. Some gardeners do this naturally in pots outdoors; others use refrigeration.

3. Planting a stone fruit tree from seed does not necessarily mean it will be exactly like its parent. While peach and apricot trees planted from seed tend to grow like their parents (and produce the same variety of fruit), there are cases where nectarine and plum trees produce variant fruit. Nature likes to experiment!

4. The seeds (kernels) of apricot pits are used to flavor the liqueur Amaretto. However, these pits aren’t to be eaten, as they contain trace amounts of a compound that can release cyanide into the body. (The fruit is fine to eat, just not the pit.) Luther Burbank, the famed hybridizer of stone fruit who brought us the plumcot, is said to have tried to naturally hybridize a nectarine tree with an almond tree to produce a nectarine with an edible (almond tasting) pit.

Check out our mix pages at fruitguys.com/mix to see what summer fruit is available in your region.

Enjoy & Be Fruitful!

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