Fitz Kelly did not grow up on a farm; in fact, he used to be a city boy. He grew up in Davis, CA and attended Santa Clara University and graduated with a degree in Economics. He then joined Teacher Core which brought him to Tulare in the late 1960s. When he first stepped onto a farm in Reedley in 1972, it just felt right, like he belonged there. He has called it home and has been farming those 31 acres ever since. There was not much planted when he first arrived, just a few peach and plum trees and some raisin grapes. The previous farmers taught him what little they knew and Fitz has never stopped learning about farming. He is always re-evaluating everything he thought he already knew and there is always new farming knowledge to be gained.Fitz tried to grow cherries, but birds ate them all. Then he tried nectarines and knew he was on to something. In the late 1980’s he started growing white peaches and nectarines and realized these new flavors were best for Farmers Markets. In 1990 Fitz started selling his fruit at the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers Market. Today Fitz grows about 180 varieties of stone fruit and is known for his unique varieties. Fitz usually has different varieties every week so don’t get too attached to your favorite variety because it might only be around for a week or two, but there is always something new to try and a new favorite variety to be discovered. Due to a big freeze in early March he says this year will be a light crop for apricots and plums. Over the next few weeks at Fitz’s stand you will find Lady in Red yellow peaches, Chinese Bride yellow nectarines, Rings of Saturn white donut peaches, Carmen Miranda, a low acid yellow nectarine, Sugar Lips, a low acid yellow peach, and Lovely Lolita, a white nectarine. Plums and pluots will be ready around the end of June.When selecting stone fruit, look for general squeezability, says Fitz; the fruit should have some give. He also says you have to learn your own kitchen to know where to best store your fruit. Store it in a warm spot, but not in the sun, if you want it to ripen. Store it in your fridge or in another cool spot in your kitchen once it is ripe if you need to store it.Fitz’s secret for a wonderful peach pie is to use 80% full flavor yellow peaches and 20% full flavor yellow nectarines. Same thing for a nectarine pie: 80% full flavor yellow nectarines and 20% full flavor yellow peaches. Fitz also reminds us how delicious grilled peaches are. Brush them with olive oil and spray Pam (it has a higher smoking point than olive oil) on a clean grill. Cut the peaches and place them cut side down on the grill for three to four minutes per side and finish them with balsamic vinegar for a perfect summer dessert.
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