Just what is a pluot?

So, I am over at Cuba Fruit one day last week, when Joshna says to me "try one of these", and tosses me a piece of fruit that I don't entirely recognise.

It looks a bit like an apricot. But it looks a bit wrong, as well. For starters, the skin has some reddish blotches. And it doesn't have that soft, lightly furry apricot skin (like the face of a kindly old aunt). It is sort of smooth, and almost shiny.

"They're quite sour," she warns me. I don't mind at all - I like sour things. I like tart apples, and lemony, sour drinks and the like. I bite in.

It does taste quite a bit like an apricot, but the texture is plummy. It's really nice. The skin is tart, lip-puckeringly sour, but the flesh is sweet and firm. It is delicious, I reckon. I'm hooked.

The pluot, also known as an aprium, apriplum, or plumcot, is a hybrid between a plum and an apricot. There are lot of varieties - a baffling number, in fact.

Logically, you can do anything with a pluot that you could do with a plum, or an apricot - it has many of the best characteristics of both. You could make jam, or chutney. You could have them with icecream, or in a pie, or, you know, whatever. They are also delicious to just eat on their own.

They are well balanced between tart and sweet, between firm and fleshy, and juicy. I take some home and have a ponder. Wellington has been basking in an almost unbelievable run of warm weather, so I don't feel like anything too heavy. I have some Zany Zeus haloumi, soft corn tacos and rocket - the pluots are going to get a Mexican-informed treatment.

I use them to make a sweet, fresh, flavourful, summery salsa. I finely dice a red onion and a red chilli, squeeze the juice of a lemon over them, and add salt and pepper, and a little sugar for balance. I chop a couple of pluots and add them, along with a handful of chopped mint. I give it a stir, and a muddle, and leave them to get acquainted.

I flour the slices of haloumi (having learnt my lesson with the fruit-haloumi platter from last week), and fry them up till they are brown and crispy - they hold their shape beautifully. I oil and fry the soft corn tacos (only ever corn - I find the flour ones a bit blah - corn just tastes more "Mexican", I reckon). I put some rocket leaves into each taco, then the fried cheese, and a spoonful of the salsa.

Bingo! They taste fresh, and vibrant, and summery. The pluot has just the right balance of firmness and acid, and is perfect for the salsa. It also tastes good with the corn tacos. I reckon it would also go well with chicken, or fish, or pork, even.

I am pleased with this effort. By using an unfamiliar ingredient in much the same way as the things it most resembles, you can often come up with something good. It basically means replacing the tomato in a more conventional salsa with the pluots, with the mint rather than coriander - hardly rocket surgery, but a tasty bite nonetheless.

I think next up I might have a crack at a sort of pluot tatin - should be good, though I may need to be supervised...

Has anybody else encountered the mighty pluot? What's your verdict? What do you do with them? And anyone encountered them before now?

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