Nothing signals the beginning of summer quite like peach juice dribbling down your chin. The first peaches and nectarines have arrived at the Santa Monica Farmers Markets and it looks like we are in store for a wonderful season.
Troy Regier, who farms in Dinuba and attends the Wednesday Market, says that his season is about seven days behind due to cooler weather, but that it will still be a very good season. Troy grows 30-40 varieties of peaches and nectarines that will come to Market throughout his 15-16 week season. Over the next few weeks you can expect to see Sunlit Snow white peaches, Spring Crest full flavor yellow peaches, Sugar Time sub acid very sweet yellow peaches, and two white nectarines, the Arctic Star and Arctic Snow.
Regier also has a young tree of Patterson apricots that are juicy and sweet and perfect for canning and eating. In about four weeks, he will also have the new Honey Blaze sub acid yellow nectarine. Troy color picks his fruit, ensuring that it is never picked before it is ripe, and has reached full size. Troy uses another interesting method for picking fruit on his farm — when the fruit is picked it is placed directly into the pan-a-pack (the plastic liners that hold fruit inside the case). His farm workers have a platform with a pan-a-pack on top of it that they wear when picking fruit. They pick only ripe fruit and place it in the pan-a-pack. Pan-a-packs come in different sizes for different sized fruit, therefore pickers also have control over what size fruit they pick making certain that similar sized fruit is packed together. This way, the fruit is handled only once, rather than it being picked and then later sorted.
Fitz Kelly, who farms in Fresno and attends the Wednesday Market, says this will be a good season for stone fruit despite the inconsistent weather. Peaches and nectarines like a gradual increase in temperature, rather than rapid spells of hot and cold. If the weather gets too hot the fruit will sunburn, causing it to rot inside. Fitz grows 170 unique varieties of fruit throughout his 14 week season. In the coming weeks he will produce a full flavor yellow peach, Sugar Lips sub acid yellow peach, Maycrest full flavor yellow peach (Fitz’s personal favorite), Virgin Blush sweet white peach, and Flavorella apriums (an aprium is a cross between a plum and an apricot, with more apricot than plum).
Each of the four Santa Monica Farmers Markets has delicious peaches and nectarines from many growers. Take a tasting tour of peaches and nectarines around the Market to find your favorite. Have a happy, tasty, and juicy beginning to your summer!