Five Fruits You Didn’t Know You Can Grow In Tucson

Remember those early childhood days in Tucson when you’d come home with stained fingers from picking blackberries? Yeah… neither do I. But, luckily, progress has been made – and continues to be made – with all kinds of new delicious fruit tree and shrub varieties being introduced that are adapted to the Sonoran Desert climate.

Apples

Dorsett Golden (Flickr/A Yee)

Dorsett Golden (Flickr/A Yee)

Arizona isn’t known for being a strong state for big, juicy apples. But with the right variety, delicious apples can be grown. As is the case with any deciduous fruit tree being grown in the Sonoran Desert, it comes down to the number of chill hours the tree requires, which is the amount of time a tree must spend in forty-five degree weather or lower. Ideally, you’ll also want a tree that is self-pollinating, and in which the fruit matures early. If space permits, cross pollinators work, too.

What you need to know

  • Pick low chill hour trees – ideally less than 500
  • Chill hours are cumulative – not continuous
  • Select early maturing varieties

Recommended Varieties

  • Anna
  • Dorsett Golden
  • Ein Shemer

More information

Blackberries

Rosborough Blackberries (Flickr/Eran Finkle)

Rosborough Blackberries (Flickr/Eran Finkle)

Although the jury is out on the quality of the fruit of the blackberry varieties available for growing in Tucson, there are a number of varieties that will do well here. In my experience, blackberries are a big, trailing, thorny bush and I’d caution on planting them if you don’t plan on keeping them well pruned. Both Texas and Arkansas varieties are available in Arizona, although a 1998 University of Arizona study revealed that only the Texas varieties survived.

What you need to know

  • Require frequent harvesting (every 2 – 3 days)
  • Does not require special soil or amendments
  • Fruit may be more tart than sweet
  • Avoid planting near nightshades

Recommended Varieties

  • Brazos
  • Brison
  • Rosborough
  • Womack

More information 

Blueberries

O'Neal Blueberries at Mesquite Valley Growers (Credit: Adam Lehrman)

O’Neal Blueberries at Mesquite Valley Growers (Credit: Adam Lehrman)

Traditionally a cold climate fruit, and always needing a moist, well-drained, and acidic soil, regardless of climate, blueberries will do fine here in Tucson. There are more than a few different varieties available. In general, blueberries are said to do better when paired with a different variety, so experiment with a few plants grouped near one another.

What you need to know

  • Acidic soil required
  • Must be grown in a container
  • Provide shade when temps get too hot

Recommended Varieties

  • O’Neal
  • Sharpblue
  • Sunshine Blue
  • Misty

More information 

Peaches

Peaches at Mesquite Valley Growers

Peaches at Mesquite Valley Growers

Who doesn’t love peaches? A hefty number of peach varieties are available to willing gardeners. Some say you won’t get more than 15 years out of a well-maintained peach tree, while others say they’ve neglected to maintain and have gotten 20. Either way, even 10 years of delicious peaches is reward enough. Similar to apples with regards to a peach tree’s need for chill hours, you’ll want to ask around to find out what other gardeners experiences have been due to the sheer volume of varieties.

What you need to know

  • Requires good drainage, regular fertilizing and regular pruning
  • Recommend 18 feet between multiple trees
  • Large number of both dwarf and non-dwarf varieties available
  • Birds love peaches – plan accordingly

Recommended Varieties

  • Bonanza Miniature
  • Babcock
  • Flordaprince
  • May Pride

More information

Pluots

Flavor Grenade Pluots (Flickr/Darya Pino)

Flavor Grenade Pluots (Flickr/Darya Pino)

Imagine how delicious a fresh, ripe apricot is. Now imagine a ripe, juicy plum. Now imagine those two fruits had a love child. That’s a pluot. These things are so darn tasty, it’s ridiculous. You’ll need two trees, since these hybrids are not self pollinating. There are self pollinating apricots and plum varieties for all you purists, although, good luck with the apricots.

What you need to know

  • Requires a cross pollinator
  • Super delicious, sweet, juicy fruit
  • Low chill hour requirement

Recommended Varieties

  • Flavor Grenade
  • Flavor King

More information

Adam Lehrman started Tucson Foodie in late 2008 as a way to track his search for the best food Tucson had to offer.

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