What's in Season at the Farmers Markets: Heartbreak + Peaches

Tenerelli peaches from the 2010 season.
Tenerelli peaches from the 2010 season.
Felicia Friesema

We started off this stone fruit season with such a bang. Big, bold, and luscious cherries and the arrival, even if late, of the first plums and pluots. But then word came from one of our favorite summertime purveyors of peaches, Tenerelli Orchards, that they lost not only the bulk of their peach crop, but also their cherries, and apricots to frost this year. No Sangre de Toro? Or their delicate Blenheims? Or those giant softball-sized O'Henrys? We wept.

Originally, John Tenerelli said they would have just enough fruit to sell at one market this year, so he picked Santa Monica. We just received an update that they'll be back at the Hollywood market on July 3rd as well. They've bid all the others (West Hollywood, Pasadena, etc.) a sad goodbye this year. Such is the nature of farming.

Tenerelli has a great reputation not only for high quality stone fruit and apples, but also for managing a surprising selection of heirloom and hard-to-find varieties of many summer and fall fruit trees. It's no wonder that so many people are devout Tenerelli customers. Does this mean you will forgo peaches this year if they aren't at your market? Of course not.

If a farmers market is worth its salt, there are several excellent growers of stone fruits to choose from. And thanks to the variability of California geography with its myriad micro-climates, one storm or even bad winter doesn't cause a complete wipe-out. A couple of our favorites include Burkart Organics, who have had white peaches and yellow nectarines for a couple of weeks now, and K&K Farms, who have an excellent selection of apricots and plum crosses along with many varieties of white and yellow peaches throughout the summer. Each has had their own struggles with weather in years past, requiring us to break with seasonal habits to get to know other vendors who may have slipped under our radar.

Proper peach selection is a tasty affair, as it often requires diligent sampling, which most vendors actively encourage via colorful and tidy sample trays. Once you've nailed down the taste you're looking for -- some prefer tart while others want pure sweet -- select your fruit for the purpose, choosing firm fruit of canning and preserving, and slightly softer fruit for that fresh peach pie. A little etiquette reminder though: do not double dip the toothpick or use your fingers in the samples. Seriously. It's gross and unsanitary, not to mention inconsiderate.

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