Summer is here. Three words which are effectively code for downing mangoes over the kitchen sink, and nectarine juice dribbling down your forearm. But how much do you know about those peaches, nectarines and other stone fruit taking centre stage in your fruit bowl right now?
Our Western Sydney chapter went behind the scenes at two stone fruit farms in Sydney’s very own food bowl. Here are some of the juiciest deets we put in our baskets to share with you, courtesy of chapter leader Megan Hounslow:
- The difference between nectarines and peaches is simply a matter of one gene, responsible for fuzzy skin. Otherwise, nectarines and peaches are pretty much identical.
- You’ll often see two kinds of nectarines in stores – white and yellow. White nectarines are generally sweeter than yellow nectarines, yet both can be used in sweet or savoury dishes (you haven’t lived until you’ve tried a nectarine caprese).
- Want the pick of the crop? The best fruit is found at the top of the tree where the most sunshine hits, because this is where new shoot growth is and where the tree is sending most of its nutrients! More nutrients + premium sunlight = juicy sweet flavour-bomb fruit.
- Too much water can easily be a bad thing for stone fruit production. The tree can easily get water logged, suffocating the roots. Lots of rain also means the fruit itself grows faster than its inner stone, causing ‘split-stone’. If the stone is split, the fruit usually won’t make it onto the market as it has a far shorter shelf life.
- Consumers tend to judge stone fruit by their covers, which not only leads to waste but also reduced profits for farmers. Slight blemishes or small splits in the seed condemn perfect pieces of fruit to be graded as ‘seconds’, and sold at cost price into the fruit market. According to the farmers we spoke to, this means that the biggest priorities in growing stone fruit end up being looks and transportability, with taste only coming in third. Want to show your support for wonky fruit? Check out the “imperfect picks” at Harris Farm.
Thanks to Canoelands Orchard (where you can pick your own peaches!) and Jolly Stone-Fruit Farm for their insights into all things stone fruit!
Image credits: Megan Hounslow