In Hawaii the summer mango and lychee seasons are anticipated with much delight. But summer is also a special time for mainland fruit: peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums and cherries — fruits that need a cooler climate to flourish.
These luscious seasonal fruits come mostly from San Joaquin Valley in California, where fruit farmers are in the midst of a harvest that will continue through the end of summer.
In early April the weather warmed up after some adverse conditions, and the set of fruit on trees was promising, according to Bill Slattery of Kingsburg Orchard, a supplier of fruit to Hawaii markets.
Sometimes stone fruit in Hawaii can be disappointing for its lack of flavor, poor texture and bruising. Remember that these fruit have to endure travel over a few thousand miles over several days; their condition is not for lack of effort on the growers’ part.
"We pick our fruit at the optimum of ripeness," Slattery said. "We pick a tree two, three or four times by hand; our pickers have worked for us for many years and know ripe fruit. Even though a fruit may be firm, it is picked tree-ripe and has a good flavor profile."
Fruit are packed immediately from the field, cooled, then shipped via refrigerated ocean container (occasionally via air) to the islands. The cold chain is maintained all the way to the supermarket.
Slattery noted that when you buy fruit at the market, it is ready to eat. "It depends on whether you like it firm and crunchy. Some people like it softer; take a firm peach or nectarine, place it in a paper bag and leave it on the counter in a cool space for a day to soften the fruit. Either way, the flavor profile will be there."
In recent years, hybrids have flourished; here are some to look for:
» Pluots are 75 percent plum and 25 percent apricot and look like a plum. They can be black, red, green or mottled. The apricot adds sweetness.
» Peach-a-rines are a yellow peach crossed with a nectarine.
» Apriums are 75 percent apricot, 25 percent plum. They look like an apricot but have the tang of a plum.
» Velvets are a mix of apricot and plum. These have the skin color of an apricot, with orange flesh and high sweetness.
When buying these fruits, ask for samples, especially those that you’ve never tasted before. Enjoy them while you can, in between the mangoes and lychee that are coming into season.
Hawaii food writer Joan Namkoong offers a weekly tidbit on fresh seasonal products, many of them locally grown.