Market & Garden Report: Peaches & Nectarines

July 27, 2012

A ripe, old-variety peach

[HOST INTRO] Red Haven, Fire Bright, and Honey Blaze.  Those are just a few of the names of peaches and nectarines hitting area farmers’ markets over the next few weeks.  In this installment of the Market & Garden Report, correspondent Guy Hand takes a look at these juicy late-summer fruits.

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Kelley: It’s peach season for us right now.  This is our first main variety that we just got into this week, this is Red Haven.

Hand: That’s Ron Kelley of Kelley Orchards in Weiser.  Red Haven is an old peach variety, the kind that have fallen out of favor with big producers.

Kelley: Some people love to can it, most people just love to eat it down here.  Hand: So what do they taste like?  Kelley: Taste delicious, juicy and sweet and flavorful.

Hand: Biting into a ripe peach and having juice dribble down your chin is a summertime rite of passage.  But juicy peaches are getting harder to find.  Big producers say consumers prefer newer, firmer peach varieties.  Kelley isn’t so sure.

Kelley: I don’t know that they like firmer peaches, but they get firmer peaches because they have to be shipped longer distances.  And that’s the beauty of this kind of market we have here is we can pick these peaches really ripe and a Red Haven is a really soft variety. If I was going to have to ship those, I would have picked them four, five, six days ago and they would be hard and they wouldn’t have the flavor that they have right now.

Ron Kelley of Kelley Orchards at the Capital City Public Market in Boise

Hand: So if somebody is shopping for peaches or nectarines, what do you look for to find one that’s good and one that’s ripe?  Kelley: The main thing to look for is the color in this variety, it’s a nice yellow color in the background.  It’ll have a red blush on one side or the bottom that’s exposed to the sun, but that doesn’t mean much about the maturity of it.  It’s this yellow color.  Hand: Yeah, I’ve read that, that you should look for the background color, that kind of underlying yellow, rather than the red.  I thought that was interesting.  Kelley: Yeah, the red is kind of icing on the cake and also attracts the birds, which isn’t such a good thing.

Peaches and nectarines from Waterwheel Gardens in Emmett

Hand: A little further down the market, Kurtis Williams of Waterwheel Gardens from Emmett says you can also judge a peach or nectarine by the feel.

Williams: When you pick it up it should be slightly firm but where you can just press with maybe your index finger and make just a slight dent in pushing down on the peach skin and then you know that thing is ready to eat.

Hand: Now, nectarines are really just peaches without fuzz.  Genetically, they’re only one gene away from a peach.

Hand: And you have nectarines as well?  Williams: Yeah, our white nectarines called Arctic Glow.  My wife calls them the Idaho mangos because she loves mangoes and they’re as close to a mango as you’re going to grow here in Idaho.  Hand: Oh, really.  That sounds pretty good.

A box of Red Haven peaches

Hand: Numerous varieties of peaches and nectarines will be coming into season at area farmers’ markets from now through September.

Hand: For The Market & Garden Report, I’m Guy Hand.

Peach lore and peach recipes from the New York Times

The elegant Bellini, made famous (and from peaches) at Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy

Also check out these excellent books: An Epitaph for a Peach by David M. Masumoto and How to Pick a Peach by Russ Parsons

And, of course, there’s always the great album by the Allman Brothers, Eat a Peach, which has nothing at all to do with peaches.

About Guy Hand:
Guy Hand is a writer, public radio producer and photographer specializing in food and agriculture.
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