Learn to Love a Peach / By Nikiko
We are in love with peaches. But we are not the first people to see a connection between peaches and matters of the heart. The metaphoric linkages have been made in popular culture (my generation might think of “Peaches & Cream” by 112, and baby boomers like my parents remember Peaches & Herb singing “Reunited and it feels so good”). Many of these references are amusing, but when it comes to living, working, and cooking on our farm, we actually try to live an earnest version of peach love.
This peach love, and consequently this book, is not really about perfection—or rather it is, but it’s a different kind of perfect: a perfect dressed in hand-me-down clothes that pass from generation to generation. Maybe there is no preexisting perfect peach. Instead, maybe a peach becomes perfect when it reminds us of the deep connections that are already present when we eat one. Maybe a perfect peach wakes us up through our senses to listen, appreciate, and champion the ways in which we are interdependent as farmers, workers, cooks, and eaters. It’s this perfection-in-process that I seek.
Every harvest, I envision the path of each peach as it leaves the farm, travels, and eventually goes home in someone’s grocery bag or rests on a plate at a restaurant. Maybe it’s yours? When that peach touches your lips and nourishes your body, I hope you feel love. Not a plastic-perfect or one-night-stand love. I want you to feel a deep reverence for the food that binds us with one another and the earth. I want you to hunger for our stories. I want you to help make all people in our food system equal partners. I want you to love us, too.
On our farm, we Masumotos do not love lightly, and it’s not always pretty. We experience heartbreak, anger, infatuation, frustration, stillness, loss, and euphoria with our peaches, recipes, and orchard work. Farming is a struggle just as much as it is fulfilling (there is no beginning and no end), and our story is only part of the interdependent world of how we feed ourselves. We hope you can taste all of that in every bite.
A strong sense of place anchors this book. We grow peaches in the Central Valley of California. The geography of this place frames who we are, how we farm, and what we eat. Social histories of immigrants, resilience, neighbors, and hard work make up the soil of our farm and stories. We have worked to make these dynamics visible in the flavors and breadth of the recipes we’ve included. Just as the lives of farmers and farmworkers must be embraced in our dream of a sustainable food system, so too must the culture of the people in our valley be part of our concept of terroir. This is by no means a comprehensive peach book. We offer what we know now, from our lives in Del Rey, California, and hope that the journey of growth continues as we meet on the page, in the kitchen, at the table.
Just to be clear, we Masumotos have an agenda: we want more people to love peaches. This book is part of our ongoing attempt to share our love with a wider audience. We want to empower everyone to cook and eat peaches. You will find recipes, essays, snippets of stories, and kitchen tips woven throughout this book. We think of it as a literary cookbook. Our desire is that you will savor reading it in two ways. We hope that you enjoy our recipes and that they contribute to wonderful shared meals and your own creations in your home kitchen. We also hope that you enjoy parts of this book like a novel—a way to learn about farming from the voices of people who actually work the earth and to understand more about the realities we live while growing peaches. To learn more about the Masumoto Family Farm, visit www.masumoto.com.Join us in our love and lust for peaches!
Peach and Nectarine Salsa
makes 3 cups
I know summer has arrived when I try to find things to eat with fresh fruit salsa for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This salsa screams “It’s summer!” loud and clear. Our family enjoys it in egg burritos or atop grilled or broiled chicken breasts, salmon fillets, salmon burgers, or fish. —Marcy
1 large or 2 medium peaches with give,
peeled, halved, pitted, and diced
2 nectarines, pitted and diced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 red onion, diced (yellow or green
onions may be substituted)
1 small-medium jalapeño chile, seeded
and finely diced
Juice of 1 lime (1 to 2 tablespoons)
Chili powder, for seasoning
Salt and freshly ground pepper
In a bowl, combine the peach(es), nectarines, cilantro, bell pepper, onion, and chile. Drizzle with the lime juice and season lightly with the chili powder, salt, and pepper. Serve immediately with your favorite dish.
variation: To turn this salsa into a salad, add diced avocado, cucumber, jicama, mango, and/or papaya and serve on a bed of lettuce.
Cook’s Note: Be careful when working with jalapeño chiles, as they contain compounds that can burn your skin. You may want to wear rubber gloves (or slip plastic bags over your hands) when working with the cut chiles to avoid burning your fingers. Also make sure you do not touch your eyes, nose, or other sensitive areas when handling chiles.
(I once accidentally put in my contact lenses with jalapeño-laced fingers and my eyes burned for hours!)