Saturday, July 11, 2009

Apricots, and other things

Summer in the North East might be weird this year...the whole of June wet, this little bit of July low in humidity and temperature: perfect, in my opinion. But it's slow and difficult for local farmers...and I'm about to see where things stand at the Borough Hall Farmers' market.

These are Californian apricots, and were delicious. I ate almost all of them last night. I'm a fruit bat (and so is my cat, strangely: begs for white peaches, yellow peaches, over-ripe plums, kiwi and mango). For some reason, the long-distance fruit I have bought this year from the New Green Pea is better than ever before:

Often peaches and nectarines will have suffered from being air-chilled for transport to distant markets, and from having their ripening inhibited in their boxes or at harvest by ominous gas-emitting insulation or treatment, and do not ever ripen properly, developing a brown shadow and woolly texture around the pit. A brief investigation on the web will turn you wholesale organic: so if you don't want to know, don't Google it.

The yellow cling and white peaches, and flat peaches and yellow nectarines I have eaten this summer have all been impeccable: they became increasingly aromatic as they sat in their bowls in the kitchen, their skins have peeled off delicately, their flesh has been translucent, juicy and sweet. No woolliness. I must assume that, en masse, they are being treated differently, or not at all. Though I think the latter is a vain hope. It is curious.

I grew up on Paul Roux Street with fig trees, an apricot tree, two wonderful little plum trees, a youngberry bush and Mrs du Toit's mulberry, cherry guava and loquat trees next door. Storming Kotzer's grapes grew on an arbour over his driveway across the street. My brothers would steal them, he would storm out, hence the name. The only time I participated in a heist I was caught, as my brothers made off in their Go Cart. After that, and at Storming Kotzer's beseeching, I walked bravely to the front door and knocked, and was rewarded with a bunch by Mrs Kotzer.

Mrs Newton on Waverley Road had mulberries the size of fat caterpillars on her huge tree with branches as wide as paths for my small feet, and my mother would send me up the tree to pick them into a bowl while she fetched two dozen brown eggs from the bins in the glassed-in stoep on the side of the house. We would eat them for dessert after lunch, with cream.

So fruit is, for me, still the best way to end a meal. My father, after supper, takes out his pocket knife and chooses his fruit, usually first one that has a bruise, so that it is not wasted, and peels it delicately, and eats it noisily. When I peel a fruit with a sharp knife I see his hands in mine.

And now I'm off to market, wee wee wee: this year's jam must be made.


  1. This entire post made me hungry AND nostalgic. I love the part about Storming Kotzer and your brothers' go cart. I'm going berry picking this afternoon at my favorite local farm. They said they've got their last strawberries and their first raspberries and blueberries. It'll be interesting to see how their other crops are doing this week. Their peas have been great so far, which is a blessing, because I adore minted mushy peas and good bread.

  2. And you've made me hungry, Gigi, funny. I'm glad I read your comment before market: I have lots of mint: just need the peas. Thank you :-)

  3. Beautiful apricots! they look more like nectarines than the pale, slightly fuzzy apricots i normally see in the store here. Got peaches and blueberries from the Farmer's Market today...and sweet corn! Hope you got lots of goodies for jam making.

  4. I hate the mealy peaches (I assume your wooly).

    A few years ago the farmer market peaches were so perfect that I ate two on my way home. Last year, not as good, this year seems similar.

    Peach farms used to dot some of Long Island's north shore. I remember as a young adult picking my own, enormous peaches so hard to not eat as I picked, which I did despite knowing they were sprayed and that I should pay first.

    I think all those farms are growing houses and families now, only 15 years later.

    Peach may be my favorite fruit among my favorite fruit.

    Speaking of picking, I'm hunting for recipes and picking as I like...

  5. Frank - the perfect peach, yes, elusive. I remember peaches like that in Connecticut one year. Luscious, orange, juice dripping things. Picked and eaten, too before paying!

    Sadly, the peaches I bought last week from the Farmers' Market were...meh? not a very nice taste. Could the rain have waterlogged them? Too little sunshine to up the sugar content?

    And! The last flat white peaches I bought and ate were woolly, yes, mealy!!! Damn! Perhaps their perfection is too fleeting. Perhaps these were held back in cold storage.


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