Summer may bring sweaty brows and swarms of mosquitoes, but it also gives us stone fruit, for which all discomforts are forgiven. To help you make the most of these fleeting seasonal offerings, we reached out to chef and restaurateur Hugh Acheson, who also penned the recently published produce-centric cookbook, The Broad Fork: Recipes for the Wide World of Vegetables and Fruits. He shares his tips for picking, storing and using peaches, nectarines, cherries, apricots and plums to help you get the optimal flavor out of summer's sweet gifts.
Season and region matter.
This is a no-brainer, right? Just because you can eat a peach any time of year doesn't mean you should. Sure, that supermarket nectarine may have been grown in the right season somewhere. But if that somewhere happens to be in a faraway land (Chile, say), more than likely, that fruit spent lots of time in cold storage. "It increases the long-range holding capacity," Acheson explains, "but extended time in cold storage makes stone fruit rubbery and mealy." The fix, he says, is to find a good local farmers' market and wait for the fruit to come into season. "The secret is to get into what's around you."
That doesn't mean all supermarket stone fruit is subpar. Many large markets make efforts to source locally or regionally when they can. Examine the stickers on the fruit to see which ones traveled the least distance. Even if you don't live in a region known for its stone fruit, chances are that a peach from Georgia endured less time in the cold than the one from Chile or Mexico.