It’s usually three to four weeks into California stone fruit season before the flavor of peaches and nectarines really starts popping with that textbook balance of sweetness and acidity. Almost all the peaches and nectarines that hit the shelves at the Bi-Rite Markets are from farms that we’ve built mutually-beneficial relationships with over several years. A couple of seasons ago we were able to take our peach and nectarine selection to new heights with a new farm-direct relationship with Masumoto Family Farm in Del Rey, CA. This beautiful 80-acre orchard is located just 15 minutes south of Fresno, and was purchased by the Masumoto family in 1948. Author and third-generation farmer, David “Mas” Masumoto, has mastered the art of building soil to support the growth of their beautiful trees, and they always harvest their fruit at the perfect level of ripeness.
Before I jump into all the stone fruit varieties that Masumoto grows, you’ll notice one thing they all have in common: beautiful yellow flesh. The Masumoto family is in love with the tang of the yellow flesh fruit and their sugar/acid balance that screams WOW! This season Masumoto is trying some new farming techniques on a handful of selected trees in their orchard. They are watering less and not pruning as heavily, which produces “petite” stone fruit. These small little sugar bombs pack enjoyment for all!
And for the uninitiated, peaches and nectarines are categorized in two ways: freestone and clingstone. When the meat (flesh) of the fruit is attached to the pit, this is clingstone variety; they are sometimes the best eating but hard to work with in the kitchen. The flesh of the freestone varieties are completely detached from the pit, which makes them easier to work with for canning, freezing, and cooking.
Just last week, Masumoto sent us their first yellow peach variety of the season! They were harvested earlier in the year than ever before because of the warm winter and drought. The clingstone Spring Lady Peach is a very juicy piece of fruit with a medium acidity level, and is just the thing to get the taste buds ready for what’s to come.
After the subtle flavor of the Spring Lady, the next stone fruit variety the Masumotos are harvesting is the clingstone Rose Diamond Yellow Nectarine. Mas Masumoto’s daughter and fellow farmer, Nikiko, refers to the Rose Diamond as a “mini fire cracker.” The Rose Diamond is usually a large, richly-flavored nectarine with beautiful red skin, but this year the drought means smaller fruit that’s packing an extra sweet punch.
As for the rest of the season, in early June we should be seeing the semi-freestone Gold Dust Yellow Peach. Some folks consider this the best early-season variety of peach, with its firm texture and rich, sweet flavor. It’s the textbook peach for grilling! The Gold Dust will be shortly followed by one of the most popular varieties in California, the freestone Flavor Crest Yellow Peach. This variety is popular for conventional growers, who like a firm piece of fruit that can travel but also has good levels of sugar. Next up is everyone’s favorite, the freestone Sun Crest Yellow Peach, which is a large peach with a red-blushed skin and juicy texture. This is the peach that put the Masumoto Family Farm on the map! And the last variety of stone fruit we will see from Masumoto is the clingstone Le Grand Yellow Nectarine. The Le Grand is a large piece of fruit with a rich, sweet flavor and firm flesh, which makes it awesome for making nectarine ice cream.
Tree-ripened peaches and nectarines are some of the most exciting treats of the summer. If you haven’t had the chance to sink your teeth into Masumoto fruit you have the next couple months to swing by the market and make it happen! Just ask us, we’re always happy to share a taste.
Here are a couple of recipes, created by Stephany from our Produce Team at 18th Street, to help you celebrate stone fruit season. Enjoy!