'Watermelon plums': Israeli farm pioneer grows hybrid fruits

AFP

3 min read
A variety of 'Watermelon Plums,' one of the creations of hybrid fruits by an Israeli hybrid fruit grower in the moshav of Yesod HaMa'Ala in northern Israel, on July 21, 2022.
JACK GUEZ / AFPA variety of 'Watermelon Plums,' one of the creations of hybrid fruits by an Israeli hybrid fruit grower in the moshav of Yesod HaMa'Ala in northern Israel, on July 21, 2022.

Pomegranate plums, watermelon plums, lemon plums – various flavors, colors, and shapes

An Israeli family farm spends its days developing hybrid fruits – from black apricots to "watermelon plums" – which it says offer unique flavors and added resilience against a changing climate.

Ben Dor Fruits and Nurseries is based in Yesud HaMa'ala, a northern community founded in the 1880s during the first wave of Jewish immigration to the region, then under Ottoman Empire control.

Using classic cross-breeding techniques, it created unique varieties of stone fruits in its orchards in the fertile Hula Valley in the northern Galilee.

Among its offerings are "pomegranate plums,” which are particularly sweet, "watermelon plums" with red flesh and green skin, and the bright yellow "lemon plum," shaped like an inverted teardrop and with a slightly tart flavor.  

"We saw there is potential for expansion on supermarket shelves if we develop fruits that are different and special in their shape and taste," said the director of the business, Sefi Ben Dor.

JACK GUEZ / AFP
JACK GUEZ / AFPA farmer shows journalists a variety of 'Watermelon Plum,' one of the creations by an Israeli hybrid fruit grower in the moshav of Yesod HaMa'Ala in northern Israel, on July 21, 2022.

The annual production, which averages between 2.2 and 3.3 tons, also includes apricots of different colors, notably red and black.

The director's son, Ido Ben Dor, said the company is working on adapting new varieties, with a focus on resistance to the effects of climate change.

Ben Dor's work is seen as a "welcome initiative" in adapting plants to changing temperatures, said Yoram Kapulnik, former director of the Volcani Center, Israel's national agricultural research facility.

Kapulnik said hybridization can make varieties more resilient to drought and allow farmers to use fewer pesticides, creating "relative advantages to the produce so we can enjoy it for longer.”

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