The juice on a peachy summer

THERE'S nothing that says "summer" more than the luscious burst of flavour on your tongue from a soft, sweet and yielding nectarine, peach or plum.

But many people don't realise the peach they buy one week isn't the same variety they will pop into their basket the next week.

That's because the season is so long and many varieties are required to fill the consumers' needs, according to stonefruit expert Rowan Little, from grower and distributor Montague Fresh.

"When you go to a store and buy a peach, the peach you buy one week is probably completely different in terms of variety from the one you bought the week before," Little said.

"Through a season you might have purchased up to 30 different varieties.

"So what the breeders are doing is they're crossing with really good varieties to get a variety to fill that gap."

Mark Wilkinson is an Australian grower in the hill regions outside Perth, who is working with breeders both here and overseas to help determine what types of fruit appeal to the consumer.

"People eat fruit when they're young and that's the taste that's imprinted upon their brain," he said.

"So all the new products that come along are good for the kiddies, and all the older consumers like to have the flavours that they can remember from back when they were kiddies."

Wilkinson has been growing stonefruit for 30 years and says this year's crop is "excellent" - mostly due to dry conditions in his region.

While he grows peaches, plums and cherries, he won't admit to a favourite.

Meanwhile Little says he's partial to a plum - particularly the newer varieties that are rich in what the fruit market calls "brix" - that is, the percentage of sugar in the fruit.

"When you eat them they're not crunchy like an apple but the skin sort of snaps," he said.

Nectarines corner the Australian market.

"Nectarines are probably 50 per cent of the market for stonefruit in Australia and of them yellow nectarines are probably 80 per cent of the nectarine sales," he said.

"Probably yellow peaches are second and then white nectarines, plums, white peach and then apricots."

Although Aussies love their stonefruit, Little does despair about the way we select and store them.

"The biggest mistake by far is putting it in the fridge," he said.

"If you put a firm piece of stonefruit in the fridge it will not ripen and become sweet and juicy.

"People often tell us they want soft fruit, but then it's the actions they take that prevent them from getting soft fruit."

And he said many of us reject the sweetest fruit because of how it looks.

"Ironically the sweetest fruit, if you're looking for sweet fruit, is the ones you might have seen with speckly dots all over the top of the fruit, that's what we call sugar speckle.

"The tip of the fruit is actually the bit that when it's on the tree is the bit that's closest to the ground, so the sugar tends to migrate by gravity to the lowest point."

Little also advises nectarine and plum enthusiasts who are looking for the best fruit to eat immediately to ignore those that are bright and shiny - this means they're not quite ripe.

He says smooth-skinned fruit with a dull sheen is ready to eat but if it's shiny, just bring it home and wait until it's ready.

"You only really need to leave it in the fruit bowl for 24 hours and it'll make a massive difference," he said.

"From supermarket to being able to eat it I would say should be no more than 36 hours."

AAP

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