Summertime in San Francisco: peaches with fog.
It is the middle of July in San Francisco, shivering tourists are traipsing around in shorts and t-shirts, intently photographing our bizarre crop underneath a canopy of bizarre weather. Our summer weaves a quilt of farmers’ markets across the city. Each Sunday and Wednesday I can walk a few short steps from my studio to the rows of tables and tents displaying the cornucopia of local produce our foggy town is privy to.
The peaches are outstanding this year. I was not the biggest peach lover heretofore. This season has proven me a convert. A few weeks ago I happened across a table offering dainty yellows, about the size of a racquetball, for a dollar a pound. On a whim and never able to deny a solid bargain, I decided to grab a fat bag’s worth and roast them. (Even prior to this I attended a cookout where these stone fruit were served to me grilled, hence the seed had been planted.) A rustic conserva was made: fruit halved (don’t bother with the stone, it will release itself later,) a long & slow cook in a warm oven to concentrate the sugars, a thumb’s removal of burnt skin, and a puree of the remaining caramelized take. Put into a sterilized jar, into the fridge, and subsequently spooned into steel cut oats or spread over buttered toast. Nature’s bounty delicately manipulated with human hands, absent any other unnecessary ingredients.
The white peaches are a misnomer, at least for those whose anticipations err towards the side of an under-ripe bite. A nosh on target, judged with a the grip of willowy fingers, releases a nectar that could compare with a fine Riesling. Juice of the faintest viscosity throws itself from pinkened flesh like the kiss of a young lover. Floral and perfumed, it is an exotic elixir. The whole essence just eviscerates on your palate.
I wouldn’t suggest ruining these treasures with cooking, it would be a shame to experiment with perfection. The current, large yellow counterparts are just as wondrous, and also only benefit from the cut of a sharp tooth or a metal knife. If it’s conserva you’d like, you best wait till the end of the season when the fruit has past its prime.
Either way, it is best to purchases these when they are firm, save for a few readily ripened ones for today’s prompt eating. To speed along their maturity in your kitchen, place them on a plate, stem side down, next to tomatoes. They will co-ripen quickly, and within two days the whole lot will be ready to go.
Each time I bite into these, I have been eating steadily at a rate of two to three a day, I hear voices of Southern ladies giggling and cajoling over a Melba. Their whole composition, born locally in the fields of gristly California, have all the soul and sass of a belle. It is hard to enjoy them without feeling transported to somewhere else, a slow place where people still meander and drawl. Each final bite is a bittersweet tragedy – a reminder of nature’s mortal riddle sugared with sensual gratitude for having had one more suckle from her nipple.