It typically takes three to four weeks into California stone fruit season before the flavor of our local peaches and nectarines really starts popping with that celebrated balance of sweetness and acidity, but this year we’ve already got some great ones rolling in. Almost all of the peaches and nectarines that hit the shelves at the Bi-Rite Markets are from farms with which we’ve spent years building relationships, but last season we were able to take our peach and nectarine selection to the next level with a new farm-direct relationship.
Masumoto Family Farm in Del Rey, California is a beautiful eighty-acre orchard located fifteen minutes south of Fresno. It was purchased by the Masumoto family in 1948 and its current owner is third-generation farmer and author Mas Masumoto, who has mastered the art of building soil to support the growth of the beautiful fruit-bearing trees. At Masumoto Family Farm, fruit is always harvested at the perfect level of ripeness, and you’ll notice one thing all varieties of Masumoto stone fruit have in common: beautiful yellow flesh. The Masumoto family loves the tang of the yellow flesh of the fruit, and their fruit boasts a sugar/acid balance that is a dream-come-true for summer refreshment.
Due to the warm winter, Masumoto harvested this year’s first yellow peach variety earlier in the year than they can remember ever having done before, and this past week we received our first shipment of Spring Lady Peaches. This is a very juicy peach with medium acidity that falls into the clingstone category of stone fruit (meaning that the flesh of the fruit is attached to the pit, the best to eat but hard to work with in the kitchen, as opposed to freestone fruits where the flesh is detached from the pit, making them easier for canning, freezing or cooking). We’ve been enjoying these beautiful, delicious peaches and they’ve definitely primed our tastebuds for what’s still to come.
Soon after the Spring Ladies, we received the first of Masumoto’s Rose Diamond yellow nectarines. Mas’s daughter Nikiko, who is keeping the family farming tradition alive into its fourth generation, refers to this clingstone nectarine as a “mini firecracker.” The Rose Diamond is usually a large, richly-flavored nectarine with a dazzling red skin. This year, due to the lack of water caused by the drought, this nectarine is smaller than usual but is packing an extra-sweet punch.
Early June should see the arrival of the semi-freestone Gold Dust yellow peach, considered by some to be the best early variety for eating. With its firm texture and rich, sweet flavor, it’s the textbook grilling peach. The Gold Dust will be followed shortly by one of the most popular varieties in California, the freestone Flavor Crest yellow peach, and shortly thereafter by everyone’s favorite, the freestone Sun Crest yellow peach (large with red-blushed skin and very juicy, it’s the peach that put the Masumoto family on the map). The last variety of stone fruit we’ll see from Masumoto is the clingstone Le Grand yellow nectarine, a large piece of fruit with rich, sweet flavor and firm flesh, making it great for producing nectarine ice cream!
Tree-ripened peaches and nectarines truly 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 our Markets, so make it happen!
Stephany from the Produce Team at 18th Street is a huge fan of the Masumoto family’s fruit, as well as an accomplished cook, and she has pulled together a few recipes here to help you celebrate the season!
“Rose Diamond” Nectarine & Habanero Salsa
- 6 ripe yellow nectarines, not too soft but with a little give (any bright flavored yellow peach or nectarine with medium to high acidity will work, but Masumoto’s “Rose Diamond” is particularly amazing & flavorful)
- 1 habanero pepper, with slits cut all around sides but left whole
- ½ bunch cilantro
- 1 spring onion or ½ red onion, sliced finely
- Salt & pepper to taste
Dice the nectarine into ¼ inch cubes. Add to a bowl with the slit habanero and stir around. Chop cilantro and onion finely, add to salsa. Season with salt and pepper. Let sit for at least 15 minutes, then taste and add salt, and a squeeze of lime or honey to adjust the acidity or sweetness as needed. If it is spicy enough, you can remove the habanero, although cutting the slits as opposed to chopping lets the flavor get out without adding too much heat, and the floral notes of the habanero go particularly well with yellow nectarines & peaches. This can be done 1-2 days ahead. Store refrigerated.
Wonderful on grilled or roasted meats: chicken, pork, salmon. Try it on toast with ricotta or burrata for a quick appetizer, on fish tacos…the possibilities are endless!
Stone Fruit & Pt. Reyes Mozzarella “Caprese” Salad
- 1 lb mixed stone fruit, ripe but not mushy: nectarines, peaches, plums, pluots, cherries…whatever you like. Or try a mix for color and flavor
- 1 ball fresh mozzarella, such as the lovely Pt. Reyes mozz we have right now. Burrata is also delicious in this.
- ½ bunch basil
- A few handfuls arugula
- Extra-virgin olive oil, such as Bi-Rite’s own PUBLIC label oils, something grassy with a peppery note is good to offset the sweetness
- Balsamic vinegar
- Good sea salt, such as Maldon or fleur de sel…something with a crunch
Slice up your stone fruit and mozzarella. Layer the cheese and fruit on a large platter over the arugula. Tear some basil and sprinkle it around. Dress with olive oil, balsamic, and coarse salt. Eat right away!
This is a great alternative to the classic caprese while we let the tomatoes do their thing and get delicious! In the fall and winter I do the same salad with persimmons & citrus!
“Gold Dust” Peach-Ginger Shortcakes with Bourbon Whipped Cream
- 4 yellow peaches, such as the “Gold Dust” we just got in from Masumoto (which is hands down one of the best peaches I have ever had)
- A 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated or minced finely (I use a microplane, one of my favorite kitchen tools)
- A handful of brown sugar or turbinado sugar, depending on the sweetness of the peaches
- Kosher salt
- 1 cup heavy cream (I love Straus for the rich, grassy, buttery flavor)
- 1 shot of your favorite bourbon whiskey- anything with nice caramel or brown sugar notes is delicious, like Bulleit or Elijah Craig
- 4 shortcakes, from Bi-Rite Creamery or homemade (chopped crystallized ginger is a nice addition if you’re making your own!)
Dice or slice the peaches as you wish. Place in a bowl, and add a sprinkle of sugar and a pinch of kosher salt. If the fruit is very sweet it will need no more than 1-2 tablespoons. Add the ginger, stir, and set aside to macerate for a few minutes. This can be done up to 1 day ahead.
Whip the cream to soft peaks with the bourbon, a sprinkle of brown sugar (to taste), and a pinch of kosher salt. This is best done right before serving. Though it can be whipped a few hours ahead, the cream tends to break down after a day or so. To fix this, re-whip to desired texture.
To assemble: Warm shortcakes briefly in the oven to re-crisp (5 minutes at 375 should do it). Cut the shortcakes in half crosswise, and layer peach compote and bourbon cream over bottom half. Top with second half of shortcake and serve. A little fresh basil or thyme adds a nice herbal note. A drizzle of salted caramel sauce is also a great addition.
Pickled “Gold Dust” Peaches
- 6 peaches, ripe but quite firm. Masumoto says the “Gold Dust” yellow peach is particularly delicious pickled.
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup kosher salt
- 1 tsp each coriander seeds, black peppercorns & fennel seeds- or whatever spices you like!
- 3 dried arbol chiles (or use your slit habanero left over from the nectarine salsa!)
Bring everything but the peaches to a boil to dissolve the sugar and salt. Slice or dice peaches as desired and place in a clean jar. Let the liquid cool slightly. Pour over the peaches, let cool to room temp, then refrigerate overnight. Enjoy them the next day! They are a delicious addition to a charcuterie platter, grilled pork chop, or a grilled cheese sandwich. Their brightness cuts nicely through anything rich and fatty.