Stone fruit is the master of self-promotion. The General Review: Stone Fruit

I was a picky eater as a kid. I'm still picky, but now I eat sushi, and I didn't then. I eat Brussel sprouts and dill pickles and other green things I used to be weird about. But I'll never like shrimp, so don't even try.

I thought I didn't like cherries. Because I didn't like red Lifesavers or cherry Kool-Aid or those little red bits in fruit cake. Actually, I didn't like any of the bits in fruit cake. But maraschino cherries. Neon red and sticky sweet, they were made for garnish, the last ingredient to top a sundae, and the first to be eaten. I passed my cherries off to someone else at the table. The someone who didn’t get the dill pickle on top of my hamburger.

Everyone who packed a lunch to school remembers the days their mom sent a fruit cup. Mine came in little cans with the peel top lid. I ate the pears, the pineapple, the grapes, the peaches. I left the cherries behind.

I didn’t bother the cherries; the cherries didn’t bother me. Until a few summers ago, when my mom brought home a bag of Ranier cherries from the market. Bigger than maraschinos, lighter. Some are nearly white, with just a blush of red. They’re crispy and juicy. I didn’t know cherries could taste like this.

I even love the pits. Grapes with seeds are awful, a hassle, not worth the effort for a bit of fruit and pieces stuck in your teeth. A bag of cherries between two friends on a picnic blanket is a project, something to keep your hands busy when the conversation falls quiet, summer falls dark, and the fireworks crack overhead.

-

[written by Megan Westerby]

Stone fruit is the master of self-promotion. They start their campaign early with springtime buds, flirting their way into your gaze and leaving behind a desire for a juicy, ripe mouthful of sun-warmed fruit. Stone fruit is as sexy as fruit can get because it makes you want it long before you can have it.

I didn't have opinions on stone fruit until I moved to Los Angeles. Grouping stone fruit into a category, a category of fruit I should have opinions on, just never occurred to me. Citrus fruit is the star of fruit categories, catalogues devoted to its splendor, but stone fruit is different. If you live somewhere where the only stone fruit you can purchase is trucked in there’s no reason to have opinion on stone fruit, as your options are likely limited to peaches, apricots, and cherries.

But in Los Angeles? In Southern California? Stone fruit opinions are plentiful, so you either develop your own or absorb others'. Sure, everyone knows about SoCal's citrusy history. You can pluck lemons and grapefruits and oranges off neighborhood trees if not your own. But the secret treasure of SoCal is the pluot, the unlikely but delightful hybrid of plum and apricot that has a short, defined, and delicious season in which it should be consumed. Once you understand the pluot, the mysteries of the world of stone fruit unlock.

In SoCal, the pluot is the gateway drug to seeing stone fruit with fresh eyes. To caring about the storage conditions of your fruit haul. To understanding ripeness and seasons and the long wait for the right time of year, the mellow success of the correct season, and the desperate scramble to get the last of the good stuff before your final impressions run the risk of being of mealy, too-late harvested.

Once you've discovered the pluot you discover the intricacies and delicacies of other stone fruit, the differences between peaches and white peaches, the joys of the nectarine, the secret stealth of the cherry--thought of as a berry but truthfully the jewel of the stone fruit realm. Technically, olives and dates are stone fruit, meaning there's a three course meal concept based around stone fruit out there just waiting to happen.

But, really, it comes back to the pluot. Pluots are as varied as heirloom tomatoes, some with similar color patterns, and prompt similar speculation as to the creation and production of different strains. How many generations removed from an apricot or a plum is this delicious mouthful? A good pluot make me want another immediately after, all while begging me to ponder its heritage.

⇓ 12.05.06 general may.pdf