To Pick a Nectarine

To Pick a Nectarine

Every spring, I eagerly plant outside as soon as the soil is soft enough for my hands to turn over. We don’t get much sun on our patio, probably not enough to sustain produce-bearing trees and bushes. But this year, I found a fruit tree for sale on one of those early days, when I was hopeful.

It was labelled as a grafted stone-fruit tree: the main trunk was wrapped with a tag that read “Nectarine”, and the grafted branch was labelled “Plum”. I carried the tree, skinny but tall, the half-mile home and planted it in place of a maple sapling that had failed the winter. And of course it was snowed on the following week.

But the roots held and the first flower buds stayed and blossomed and more followed. Slowly, fruit began to form - on both the main trunk and the grafted branch.

Confusingly, neither branch was producing anything plum-colored. The fruit from the grafted branch looked almost like apples and, as they grew fat and heavy, they pulled down the branches. I had brace a second stake into the branch to make sure it wouldn’t break under the weight. The main trunk was slower to fruit - smaller and fewer blossoms, but those that stuck around to grow were covered in fuzz.

Well, we picked our first fruit from the tree this weekend, from the grafted branch, soft and red. And it wasn’t a plum, but it popped with flavor all the same.