Ripeness Is All

Russ Parsons, the food columnist for the Los Angeles Times, has spent years cultivating sources at the farmers’ market—and, finally, the produce broke down and talked. His new book, How to Pick a Peach: The Search for Flavor from Farm to Table—part encyclopedia, part recipe book, part produce user’s manual—collects their most intimate secrets, including the title: You’ll know a maturely picked peach by its golden background color (that red blush is fool’s gold).

The book’s so convincing that food blog Bay Area Bites thought that even a $3 peach—a great $3 peach, mind you—seemed reasonable after reading about the trials of Central Valley stone fruit wizards Fitz Kelly and Art Lange. Blogger Tana Butler of personal food and farms blog I Heart Farms is equally enthusiastic (“this is the best book I’ve read in a long time on any subject”), although she faults it for not flatly endorsing organics (Parsons recommends relying on taste, not certification).

There’s an August zucchini plant’s worth of fruit and vegetable trivia, like the dirt on portobellos: Overgrown cremini mushrooms, they were routinely thrown away until someone in the early 1990s decided to try selling the monsters. The name? It’s a faux-Italian marketing invention with no standard spelling.

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