California is the largest producer of stone fruit in the United States. In fact, California produces more than 90% of the nectarines and plums and about 60% of the peaches.
Stone fruit gets its name from the large seed – or “stone” – inside and includes peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, pluots and apriums. Here a look at the varieties:
Peaches and nectarines. Freestone peaches and nectarines have flesh that slips easily away from the pit; clingstone fruits do not. Most peach varieties are freestone and are available April through October. Some nectarines are freestone and some are clingstone. Freestone nectarines are available in June and July. Most plum varieties are clingstone.
Plums. There are two types of plums: European and Japanese. Most plums produced in California are Japanese plums, with a distinctive round shape and dark color. European plums are more elongated and have a mottled appearance with purple and green skin tones.
Pluots and apriums. Introduced in 1989, pluots and apriums are unique crosses of plums and apricots. Pluots are smooth-skinned, like plums, while apriums are slightly fuzzy, like apricots. They have unique flavors and higher sugar levels than the standard varieties. The new fruits are complex hybrids created by making several generations of crosses and selecting desirable traits, such as high sugar content.
Apricots. A native of China, the apricot has been cultivated for more than 4,000 years. The first recorded commercial production of apricots in America was in 1792, south of San Francisco. A relative of the peach, the apricot is smaller and has a smooth, oval pit that falls out easily when the fruit is halved.
Look for fruit that is soft, gives to gentle palm pressure and has a sweet aroma. The best indicator of high-quality fruit is the color.
Ripen firm peaches, plums or nectarines in a paper bag, folding the top over loosely and keeping it at room temperature for 1-3 days. Check the fruit daily. Never place firm or unripe fruit in the refrigerator as it may inhibit the ripening process and can cause the fruit to become dry and mealy – and lose flavor.
You’ll find fabulous stone fruit in varieties you don’t see at your local grocery store from farmers like Diaz Farms in Gilroy, J&J Ramos Farm out of Hughson and Cipponeri Farms from Turlock.
2 lbs. peaches, pitted and diced
1 sweet pepper, diced
1 large tomato, diced
one lime, quartered
Half a medium red onion, diced
2-3 sprigs cilantro, finely chopped
Wash all produce (and your hands). Remove pits and dice the peaches. Dice sweet pepper. Using a serrated knife, dice the tomatoes.
Put ingredients into a bowl. Add the juice of ¼ lime, salt, 1-2 T red onion and 1-2 tsp. cilantro. Stir and taste. Adjust flavor by adding more lime, salt, onion or cilantro as desired.
If you like it spicy, use a jalapeno instead of sweet pepper in whatever quantity you enjoy.
Summer hours for the Concord Farmers Market at Todos Santos Plaza are Tuesday, 10 am to 2 pm. Thursdays, 4 pm to 8 pm. Visit PCFMA.org for more information.