PRODUCE PICKS: PEACHES AND STONE FRUIT (CALIFORNIA GROWN)

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Plus 3 peachy-keen recipes!

By Greg Dunne

 

May 17, 2015 (San Diego’s East County)--Peaches, Nectarines, Apricots, and Plums are all coming into season again! Time for fruit salads, fruit salads with yogurt, ambrosia fruit salads, as well as pies and cobblers and just good ‘ol out of hand healthy snacking!

Peach Cobbler? My wife Dianne is starting to use “stone fruit” in her meals at home and her Peach Cobbler is incredible. She picks up her peaches and nectarines at Barons Market in Alpine. Her recipes for Peach, Cherry & Chicken Salad, Peach Cobbler and Grilled Stone Fruit Dessert Pouches are at bottom of this article.

Living here in California, we are very fortunate for many reasons. One of them is that we get fruits and vegetables to our markets fresher and faster.  Most states have to rely on shipping that can take days or up to a week to get the produce into stores. California is the largest producer of peaches, plums and nectarines. Most are grown in the San Joaquin Valley, just south of Fresno, California. In fact, California produces over 90 percent of the nectarines and plums grown in the U.S. and provides approximately 60 percent of all the peaches.

White flesh varieties of peaches and nectarines represent about 15% of the total California peach and nectarine crop. They have a pale white skin with splashes of florescent pink, and the flesh has a light pink or whitish interior. For me the white peaches and white nectarines are my favorite. These fruits are more delicate, ripen faster and usually have a sweeter taste. Don’t put them in the refrigerator unless you see that they are too ripe and will spoil otherwise. Fruit left on the kitchen counter will retain its flavor and sweetness better than in the refrigerator.

Here are a couple of fun facts about peaches. The largest peach on record with the Guinness Book of World records weighed an astonishing 25.6 ounces; that’s roughly a pound and a half of peachy deliciousness. It was picked in August of 2002 in Coloma, Michigan, (sorry California, South Carolina, and Georgia). Although no one is sure why peaches have that fuzzy, nuisance of a skin, there is a theory. It suggests that the peach fuzz acts as an irritant to destructive insects, and prevents them from eating the fruit. Whatever the reason may be, I wish it didn’t make eating a peach such an itchy experience. Peaches were first cultivated in China. The Chinese believe the peach is a symbol of long life and immortality and they can be found on paintings and porcelain. The peach spread from China to Persia and then Europe. The Romans believed the peach originated from Persia and named it the Persian apple.

Peach, Cherry & Chicken Salad

Salad:

•   One head of Romaine Lettuce, washed and sliced into thin strips or one bag Baby Spring Lettuce Mix

•   Two Boiling Onions or one medium sized Shallot, thinly sliced

•   Leftover chicken breast from roast chicken, sliced into thin strips

•   Four small Peaches or Nectarines

•   1 cup Dark Cherries

•   Bleu Cheese (optional)

•   Pecans or Sliced Almonds (optional)

Maple Lemon Dressing:

•   1/2 cup olive oil

•   1/2 cup lemon juice

•   1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup

•   1 teaspoon each salt and pepper

Instructions:

Salad

  1. Place lettuce in a large salad bowl, add sliced onions and chicken.
  2. Cut the peaches in half, removing the pits. Slice each half into eighths (in other words, sixteen slices from each peach).
  3. Slice the cherries in half, removing the pits.
  4. Add the fruit to the salad bowl.
  5. Using your hands, gently toss the salad together. Set aside.

Dressing

  1. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, maple syrup, salt and pepper. Whisk vigorously together.  As an alternative, I use a mason jar and shake until blended.  
  2. Drizzle over the salad. If using optional blue cheese and/or nuts, add them now. Serve immediately.

PEACH COBBLER

  • 1 stick butter
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 2-3 cups sliced fresh peaches or other fresh fruit
  • ½ to 1 tsp fresh lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • Handful of sliced almonds (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. 

  1. Melt butter in a 9” square pan.
  2. Mix sugar, milk flour and baked powder together and pour over melted butter. DO NOT STIR.
  3. Mix the fruit and other ingredients.  Place the fruit on top of the batter evenly.
  4. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the top begins to lightly brown.

Depending on the type of flour you use, sometimes the fruit sinks to the bottom and other times it stays on top.  I used enriched all-purpose flour but this recipe comes out great with gluten free flour mix or any other flour.  I have used hazelnut flour and the result was delicious.  My daughter Kristine’s favorite dessert is blueberry pie so I included a handful of blueberries in my cobbler this time.  I think that cobbler is best served warm with French vanilla ice cream but it keeps well and is also delicious when cooled. 

GRILLED STONE FRUIT DESSERT POUCHES

•   2 cups crushed gingersnaps

•   4 apricots, pit removed and cut into eighths

•   4 plums, pit removed and cut into fourths

•   4 tablespoons unsalted butter

•   2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar

•   Pinch salt

•   4 teaspoons lime zest

•   2 limes, juiced

•   4 teaspoons brandy

Instructions:

Cut 8 (18 by 18-inch) squares of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Lay down double thickness of foil and divide gingersnaps evenly among the 4 squares. Divide fruit evenly and place on top of gingersnaps. Dot with butter. In small bowl mix sugar, salt, and lime zest. Sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over fruit, drizzle with juice and brandy and seal packets. Lay packets on grill over hot coals and cover with lid of grill. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and open carefully, as steam inside packet is very hot. Serve on plates as is or spoon into shallow bowls and top with ice cream.

Greg Dunne has been a produce manager for over 30 years, all here in San Diego County. He's passionate about fruits and vegetables and enjoys his work in the produce department. He can be found taking care of  the local, organic and conventional produce at Barons Market in Alpine.