The taste of sum­mer might best be summed up in one bite. That’s if that bite is a juicy, ripe peach.

One of sev­eral so called stone fruits, they fall into one of two dis­tinc­tive cat­e­gories. Cling­stone and free­stone are the peach camps.

Cling­stones are known for their firm flesh that stub­bornly clings to the stone, mak­ing it hard to sep­a­rate with­out man­gling the fruit.

Free­stone vari­eties, on the other hand, are easy to sep­a­rate the pit from the flesh. Cal­i­for­nia cling­stone peaches are best used for can­ning and freez­ing. Har­vest for these go roughly from mid-​July to mid-​September. Fresh mar­ket free­stone types are har­vested from April through Octo­ber.

Both free­stone and cling­stone peaches have numer­ous vari­eties that dif­fer in skin color, flesh color, firm­ness, and juici­ness. Two of the most pop­u­lar vari­eties of yellow-​fleshed free­stone peaches are Ele­gant Lady and O’Henry. Other vari­eties include the Empress, Elberta, and Rio Oso Gem.

Semi-​freestone or semi-​clingstone is a newer hybrid type of cling­stone and free­stone. It is good for using all around for both fresh and canned purposes.

Read more: Peaches & Cream →

Amer­i­can cooks have a mad crush on cast iron skil­lets and cook­ware. More than durable, these cook pans are long on tra­di­tion and easy to use.

From pork roast to cherry pie, results in just this one pan style of cook­ing are pretty fan­tas­tic.

Brand names like Lodge, Gris­wold and Wag­ner are fre­quently found at week­end yard sales. Vin­tage pans go rel­a­tively unno­ticed by adult kids edit­ing stuff for estate sales.

A keen eye scours trade­marks and emblems to iden­tify a rusty, crusty old pan as a pos­si­ble trea­sure. A bit of clean­ing and re-​seasoning will bring a cast iron skil­let back to “work­ing in the kitchen” sta­tus.

One pos­si­bil­ity of dis­tin­guish­ing an authen­tic cast iron pan are the sides. The depth (fry­ing pans are shal­lower than skil­lets) and the angle (sauté pans have straight sides while fry­ing pans have flared sides). Some saucepans have pour spouts. In older pans, the pour spouts were big­ger.

Most older pans had two pour spouts while newer ones might have one. Con­tem­po­rary cast iron pans might also have a helper han­dle and non-​stick coat­ings, which are both newer.

Read more: Made to Last →

Memo­r­ial Day is a national hol­i­day set aside for remem­brance. We com­mem­o­rate all U.S. cit­i­zens who have died in the ser­vice of our coun­try.

Orig­i­nally, we called it Dec­o­ra­tion Day because the tra­di­tion of dec­o­rat­ing sol­diers’ graves with flags and flow­ers seem to fit.

The long obser­vance week­end has also mor­phed into a viable excuse to gather with friends and fam­ily over pic­nics, bar­be­cues and patio meals.

Per­fect tim­ing with warm weather makes this hol­i­day a way to wel­come in more of our favorite local foods. Water­melon, sweet corn, blue­ber­ries, straw­ber­ries, cher­ries and stone fruits are Cal­i­for­nia sourced.

How we trans­form fresh pro­duce in to patri­otic fla­vors is open to inter­pre­ta­tion. Com­bi­na­tions of red, white and blue is an easy begin­ning. Look for ways of assem­bling fruit filled plat­ters and plates with red berries and juicy water­melon. Blue is for blue­ber­ries and even black­ber­ries.

Stars and stripes clearly rep­re­sent “Old Glory”. The thir­teen stripes and fifty stars of the U.S. flag do not have to be per­fectly repli­cated. Cookie cut­ter stars of any size are indica­tive of patri­otic sym­bol­ism.

Cut from pas­try dough or melon, add the five-​point start to pies, cakes, fruit sal­ads and more.

Read more: Patri­otic Flavors →

Burg­ers, sand­wiches and sal­ads dom­i­nate casual warm weather fare. How they go from mediocre to super star sta­tus is just one ingredient/​degree of sep­a­ra­tion.

Sweet Red Onions have just begun their sea­sonal har­vest­ing in the San Joaquin Val­ley.

They bring excep­tional fla­vor, sweet­ness and tex­ture to every­thing from piz­zas to pas­tas. To be sure, an Ital­ian Red or Fresno Flat sweet are quite dif­fer­ent from any onion rel­a­tive.

Alli­ums in gen­eral include round globe (red, yel­low and white) onions, gar­lic, shal­lots, scal­lions, leeks and chives. Packed with nutri­ents and antiox­i­dants, these kitchen sta­ples are used to impart bold and some­times savory heat to dishes.

Milder, sweet onions are ter­rific for eat­ing raw, pick­ling and grilling. In this class are well-​known Vidalia, Walla Walla and Maui Sweets. These pop­u­lar vari­eties have a pale yel­low skin with a white or light yel­low inte­rior.

Ital­ian reds have a flat­ter shape. As their name implies, are a red­dish to pur­ple bright color. Not all super­mar­ket red onions are sweet. Be cer­tain to seek out that flat appear­ance to get to the right choice.

Other red-​skinned sweet onions include Bermuda, Bur­gundy, Cipolle di Tro­pea or Tropea’s sweet. The pop of color is part of the red onion attrac­tion. The sweet, mild taste pairs nicely with greens like kale, arugula, baby spinach and but­ter or romaine lettuces.

Read more: Sweet Spot →

There’s a rea­son why “pre-​cut” or “value-​added” pro­duce sales are on the rise. It’s some­times very intim­i­dat­ing or tricky for home cooks or even pro­fes­sional chefs to mas­ter the art of cut­ting, slic­ing or chop­ping.

Knife skills are essen­tial for kitchen con­fi­dence, effi­ciency and safety. How to han­dle knives and mak­ing the best choice for cer­tain jobs comes with loads of prac­tice and expe­ri­ence.

Cer­tain fresh pro­duce items, fruits in par­tic­u­lar, are eas­ier to approach than oth­ers. Apples and cit­rus might be intu­itive. Pineap­ple, mango, papaya and water­melon are a bit more com­pli­cated.

There are sev­eral food hacks tout­ing the best ways to get to the heart of what we want to eat. Any fruit com­mis­sion web-​site (mango, straw­berry, water­melon, avo­cado, etc.) will show­case ter­rific knife skills via video or step-​by-​step photo images.

To begin, learn to choose your fruits. Same day use requires ripeness. The Mama Bear “just right” approach to color, feel, and smell is a good start.

Greener or harder fruit may not mature in a man­ner that works. Seek out pro­duce exper­tise to assist if your retailer is rep­utable for sell­ing qual­ity prod­uct and hav­ing trained and informed clerks.

There are depend­able mar­ket clerks will­ing to share their pro­duce expe­ri­ence. The value in hav­ing trusted and informed staff to assist shop­pers is reflected in sales and cus­tomer loy­alty. A great clerk has the knowl­edge to help with prod­uct selec­tion, stor­age, care, han­dling and usage.

Read more: A Cut Above →

All along the cen­tral and south­ern coast­line, hun­dreds of Cal­i­for­nia straw­berry farm­ers are cul­ti­vat­ing the major­ity of all straw­ber­ries grown in the United States.

Nearly ninety per­cent of all U.S. straw­berry pro­duc­tion hap­pens on less than one per­cent of the Golden State’s farm­land.

The Cal­i­for­nia straw­berry story is about more than the effi­cient use of this prized land. It is also intrin­si­cally con­nected to the real story of Amer­i­can immi­grants and farm work­ers.

Today, in many cases, sec­ond and third-​generation fam­ily farm­ers con­tinue to farm and pro­duce America’s favorite fruit.

The agri­cul­ture boom hap­pened in Cal­i­for­nia right along­side the gold rush. Peo­ple were immi­grat­ing to Cal­i­for­nia to chase their dreams and find per­sonal suc­cess.

Straw­ber­ries made it pos­si­ble for fam­i­lies to set­tle in a sin­gle loca­tion where they could live and work instead of fol­low­ing the in-​season crops around the state. Some of these immi­grant farm work­ers started in irri­ga­tion or pick­ing straw­ber­ries. Many went on to build their own straw­berry farms and busi­nesses.

While con­sumers enjoy straw­ber­ries nearly year-​round, they may not rec­og­nize or fully appre­ci­ate the hard work and ded­i­ca­tion required to pro­duce them.

Read more: Berry Good →