The season's first local stone fruits -- peaches, nectarines, apricots -- are filtering into markets. Dish, making the weekly pilgrimage to the Ferry Plaza farmers market, thought they were looking slightly petite, especially the golf-ball-size peaches, but according to Bill Fujimoto of the Monterey Market in Berkeley, "early" varieties tend to be smaller anyway; diminutive fruit early in the season isn't necessarily a predictor of later mediocrity.
But Fujimoto also thinks that the lack of true cold last winter might be contributing to smaller fruit.
"Trees need cold weather to rest," he says. "They need to save their vitality for the fruiting season. The mild winter means that sugar may not be as high, and maturities are a little funny."
The vagaries of local production don't faze Fujimoto. Depending on the season, he buys peaches grown in Arizona, the desert, the southern Central Valley, and the foothills, among other places. And although Monterey Market "is not an organic food store," he says, "we offer as much organic produce as possible."
That's gotten a lot easier in the last few years, as the cost difference between organic and commercial has tightened and the quality of organic produce has risen dramatically. Fujimoto sees the trend continuing. "Sooner or later every farmer will be an organic farmer," he says. "Technology will make it possible."
But some crops are easier than others to grow organically, and stone fruit aren't particularly easy. Certain pest and cosmetic problems, while easy to deal with through chemicals, are still costly problems for would-be organic stone-fruit growers. "There's an associated high cost with growing peaches and apricots organically," Fujimoto says.
That cost translates into higher prices at the checkout stand or the farmers market booth. But even if organic stone fruit does cost more than commercially grown varieties, the difference doesn't amount to much. High-quality peaches and nectarines -- including Dish's favorite white-flesh varieties -- cost about $2 a pound these days at Ferry Plaza. (Prices will decline as the season proceeds.) Is Dish right in thinking that white-flesh peaches taste better?
"Mature peaches taste better," Fujimoto says with a laugh.
La Dolce Vita
A company called Portofino is introducing a line of Italian gelati into the U.S. market. Italian ice cream emphasizes egg yolks rather than cream, which sounds horrifying but, if the company's claims are to be believed, results in up to 50 percent less fat. And that decadently creamy, dense texture.
Don't want any fat at all? Try one of the sorbetti.