HOW CAN ONE EVER FORGET BITING INTO A peach so juicy you have to suck in as you bite just to keep it from flowing down your chin? Stone fruits at the height of their seasons—plump peaches and nectarines, delicate apricots, crisp cherries, tart-skinned and sweet-fleshed plums—lead one to rhapsodize and swoon. And some recent additions to the food world—incredible hybrids such as pluots, plumcots, apruims, and nectaplums—all combine the best trait of one stone fruit with a complementary aspect of another.
Our love of stone fruits begins long before their summertime sweetness arrives. It starts in the spring, when their flowers break our garden’s winter doldrums. We’ll sense it coming in the subtle swelling of the buds just waiting for the first warmth of the season. Finally, for several days in a row the air will warm, and then one, two, three buds will appear. Suddenly the tree will begin to open up, its petals stretching out after a long winter’s sleep. Within a week the tree will be filled with blossoms, signaling the arrival of spring.
As much pleasure as we derive from stone fruits, it seems as if their season is too short. In a mere few weeks many of the varieties in the local markets will turn from stellar to disappointing. Last week’s sweet apricot is now mealy and lifeless. Fortunately each fading family is succeeded by some of its stone-fruit brethren that are just beginning to reach their prime. And even past their zenith, many stone fruits are still wonderful in the kitchen. Their sweetness and juicy texture may be lost when eaten out of hand, but the fruits can be given a new and delicious life when gently cooked.
Some varieties will last longer than others, but all in all their glory leaves us too soon. Another reminder to savor life—and its peaches—when Nature offers it.