Here Come the Stone Fruits
May starts the stone fruit season with cherries and apricots. In season and fresh, fruit at the Orinda Farmers’ Market offers a variety of each to make the choices more interesting.
Hundreds of varieties of cherries grow in the United States, both wild and commercially cultivated. Ponce Farms from Delhi, in the Modesto area, brings a few of the most popular varieties to try over the next several weeks.
Royal Tioga cherries, developed at the research station at Zaiger’s Genetics in Modesto, are the first offerings. They are large, firm and red-skinned with pleasant sweetness and aroma.
Brooks cherries follow and bring a sweet, rich, well-balanced flavor. The firm flesh holds up well when chopped into salsa, tossed into salads, baked in pies, simmered into preserves or added to cheese boards. For some, these are the cherry-of-choice before the Bing cherry hits the stands.
Bing, the most popular cherry, arrives around the middle of May. The sweet, juicy, deep red cherry is treasured for fresh eating, cooking, canning and freezing.
The cream-colored Rainier cherries arrive next. Their sweet creamy flesh is a one-of-a-kind delight, but they are fragile and susceptible to bruising.
Choose firm, plump cherries with fresh green stems. Unwashed, they can be placed in single layers between paper towels in a container, covered and refrigerated for up to four days. Wash before using.
Freshly harvested apricots include Apache, an early variety which has a pinkish-orange skin and a finely-textured orange flesh. A freestone, which means the flesh is not attached to the pit or stone, makes it easy to eat. The lovely aroma reminds us – fresh is always best.
An apricot look-alike, called an Aprium, is another fruit developed in the late 1980s by Zaiger’s. This hybrid is the result of a cross between apricots and plums – roughly 75% -25% respectively.
Apriums tend to be on the small size with a red-blushed, orange, smooth skin and firm texture. They are sweet with a little plum tartness. Enjoy them out of hand or use them in any recipe calling for apricots.
The Orinda Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Orinda Way in Orinda Village. For more information, visit www.cccfm.org, 925.322.6228.
Barbara Kobsar can be reached at Barbara@cotkitchen.com.