We’re two weeks into the launch of the summer stone fruit season, and I’m absolutely loving it. And yes, I’m well aware it’s not officially summer, but there’s nothing like these fruits that get me looking toward the season to come.
The first round of freshly harvested cherries, yellow peaches, and yellow nectaries were readily available from growers out of the Bakersfield and Hanford areas. This week, additional growers will have their fresh stone fruit on display from other counties in the Central Valley, including Fresno and Tulare.
While I’m hearing the crops this year for our cherry growers are lighter than last year, all indications are the overall quality of fruit is nothing less than exceptional.
This week I was focused on the small clingstone yellow peaches available at our Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday markets. Peaches are probably my overall favorite summer fruit to arrive, with the large flavorful late summer varieties the absolute best.
Still quite tasty, the first harvest of the year is a little less flavorful and more tangy but still does the trick when delivering that true peach essence. Unlike the late summer varieties that are freestone, where the central pit pops out with ease, the pits in these clingstone peaches are securely attached so I usually just cut around the pit to remove the flesh, or simply enjoy them out of hand.
I often incorporate my peaches into a fruit salad with pitted cherries and mixed seasonal berries, or use to make a quick homemade preserve. I also enjoy peaches tossed with bitter mixed greens or spinach, or diced and mixed into my morning yogurt or an evening dessert bowl of ice cream. This week I took advantage of the fresh sweet Italian basil and added sliced peaches, feta cheese, red onion and diced cucumber. All drizzled with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar, this salad pairs incredibly well with grilled meats, in particular slow-cooked baby back pork ribs with a light spread of barbecue sauce. You can also toss in some sliced olives for a little bit of rich saltiness if desired.
Clingstone Peach, Feta, and Cucumber Salad
4 yellow peaches, ripe bit firm.
2 medium Persian cucumbers, diced.
6-8 large basil leaves, rolled and sliced into ribbons.
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced.
3-4 ounces feta cheese, cut into small cubes.
Olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar.
Freshly cracked pepper.
Cut large chunks of your peaches off of the central pit, then cut into bite sized pieces. Toss in a mixing bowl with cucumber, red onion, basil and feta cheese. Drizzle with a little olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar. Then season with freshly cracked pepper. You can add a little salt if needed, but the feta cheese will add some saltiness to the dish.
Yield: Serves 4 sides.