We'll always have strawberries. At least that's how it seems at the farmers market. No matter if the weather is damp and cold and the sun seems to have forgotten how to punch through the cloud cover, rows and rows of strawberries appear on Sunday in the market as if they've lost their sense of time.
Not the stone fruit. Peaches, nectarines, plums, pluots, apricots and cherries need full sun.
Round and firm, they promise sweetness in so many different ways. Peaches and nectarines reach deep into our souls with their full rich flavors. Pluots, plums and apricots strike a lighter note, relying as they do on a touch of acid.
Cherries, deeply sweet with a hint of tartness, have a thick flavor that lingers in the mouth.
Everyone loves to eat stone fruit freshly picked but the ones in the market now are first-of-the-season and haven't reached their full potential.
While we're waiting for summer's heat to work its magic, stone fruit can be improved by oven roasting.
Simply prepared by cutting in half and removing the stone, apricots, peaches, nectarines, pluots, plums and cherries surge with flavor after a short time in a 350F degree oven.
Prices and Availability
Prices for stone fruit at the Sunday market vary from a fifty-cent to a dollar difference between the most and the least expensive.
Take cherries for example.
Stockton's Bozzini Farms in front of Lenny's Deli, offered Iranian Cherries for $5.00 for one and a quarter pounds, with Bing cherries selling for $4.00.
Always a bit pricy, Smith Farms from Linden, California was selling Bing's for $2.75 a half pound or $5.50 a pound.
G Farms had Bings and Rainer cherries for $4.00 a pound, while the Rainers at Mark Boujikian Farms across from Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors were $4.50.
Arnett Farms, which has an excellent selection of quality stone fruit and citrus, had great mounds of Rainer and Bing cherries for $5.00 a pound.
How to judge value for the price? Taste for yourself. Sometimes the most beautiful looking fruit has no flavor while the funky looking one is to-die-for.
Remember to ask for a sample every week. The farmer with great tasting cherries one week, might not have the best the next.
Bottom line--from the great abundance of stone fruit already in the market, we should be in for a bumper year! Let's hear it for summer and stone fruit!