The Descent of Summer

Brings Stone Fruits into the Market

By: Debra Chase

Summer Solstice, the sun is high in the sky. The days will now begin to change, like a hiker climbing up one side of the mountain, topping the peak then coming down the other side, the view is different. The days will begin their descent, sundown coming a little earlier every day, the sun slanting lower and earlier in the afternoon instead of after dinner. The farmer’s fields, dewy in early summer will soon become dusty, seemingly to hold a covering of pollen indicative of the hot days and warm nights of full summer. Soon enough the days and nights will turn cool again as fall begins to approach.

Right now though, at the base of our summer peak, the harvest of the popular stone fruit begins. Bursting forth in a storm of color and flavor this is the time for peach cobbler, blueberry buckle, cherry crisp, red plum tart and apricot jam.

Unlike other types of fruit, they don’t become sweeter after they are picked, and as they age on the kitchen counter, they can become mealy and dry so don’t let them sit around too long. At the Farmer’s Market, select varieties that have the color, if not the softness, of fully ripened fruit, then take them home and if needed, let them soften at room temperature for a day or two. If you can’t use them soon after ripening, store in the fridge in a basket or wooden bowl. Don’t use plastic or glass. The moisture that develops will quickly rot the fruit. Simply cover with a light dry tea towel.

All of these fruits at the peak of ripeness, are delicious simply eaten as is. Everyone likes variety and stone fruits certainly oblige. Try them roasted with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, poached or sautéed in a deep red wine with cinnamon and whole cloves, baked into pies, crumbles, cobblers, made into jams or used as a sauce or topping for both savory and sweet dishes. Served fresh they are delicious in salads. Split in half with the stone removed, stuff the cavity with goat cheese and herbs or small curd cottage cheese and chives for a light snack or appetizer.

One all-time favorite use of stone fruits is a quick and easy tart. All you need is a variety of fruit, sliced or diced, peels on or off, a baked pie shell and some raspberry or apricot jam. The fruit artfully arranged on the pie shell and glistening with jam, a fresh fruit tart makes a beautiful centerpiece at the backyard BBQ or dinner party and a sweet end to hot day.

Simply melt ½ cup of jam on the stovetop in a stainless pot over medium heat, or in a medium sized bowl in the microwave. Be careful; heat it just enough to melt, don’t let it simmer or boil. Arrange the fruit onto the baked and cooled pie shell and pour the melted and still warm jam over the fruit. Cool completely and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.
Summer never tasted so good!