This past week, I took the family on a quick trip up to the Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks. As we made the drive through the prolific stone fruit, citrus and nut growing regions of the Central Valley, it is quite evident why this is such a major U.S. agricultural sector for such crops.
You see trees lining the roadways, row after row, ranging in size from the giant walnut trees that are likely decades old to the tiny peach trees just planted this year.
Before heading to the parks, we had the privilege of being able to stop by one of these farms in the Visalia area, harvesting fresh Brooks and Rainier cherries right off the trees. It was quite the experience for my 4- and 7-year-olds, one they will always remember.
As the assortment of wonderful stone fruit continues to roll in, in addition to the cherries, peaches, nectarines and apricots, you’ll find the first pluots of the season. These plum and apricot hybrid stone fruits come in an array of sizes, color combinations, flavors and textures, depending on the type of plum and apricot that are crossed, with dozens of varieties to choose from throughout the late spring into the fall seasons.
One of my favorites to emerge each year is the early season Flavor Rosa Pluot from Visalia-based Burkdoll Farms.
Pluots are ideal for just eating as they come, but they’re also quite delicious in a fruit salad. The tangy sweet flavor pairs quite nicely with the seasonal berries and other fruit readily available this time of year.
It is also a nice variety for those looking to prepare a homemade plum-style preserve.
This week I tossed my sliced Flavor Rosa Pluots with fresh basil, fresh mozzarella cheese and walnuts for a delicious simple salad. I drizzle the dish with a little aged balsamic vinegar and a little good quality olive oil to tie it all together. This salad is excellent as part of a summer barbecue.
Flavor Rosa Pluot and Walnut Salad
2 pounds Flavor Rosa Pluots, pits discarded, cut into 1-inch pieces
6-7 large Italian basil leaves (Thai or Lemon Basil are also great options), finely chopped or cut into ribbons.
2/3 cup shelled walnut halves or pieces
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into bite-sized cubes
High-quality olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar
In a mixing bowl, gently toss together pluots, basil, walnuts and cheese. Place on a serving platter and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Yield: Serves 6 sides