PHOTOS BY MICHAEL PIAZZA / STYLED BY CATRINE KELTY
In August of 2002, my husband and I returned to New England after living in Northern California for five years. One of the first things I did with my then 18-monthold son, Hudson, was to take him peach picking. It turned out to be the perfect “welcome home.” Sitting in the field that day with my friend Joy and her son Henry, watching the boys running around picking and eating peaches, a red barn in the distance, I realized this was that unique “New England” feel I’d been missing. We ended that day with warm peach crisp and although the memory has probably escaped Hudson, it is still fresh in my mind.
Fast-forward fourteen years and even with such a mild winter, it feels like a long wait to finally arrive at summer. The bounty is just beginning and there is so much more to come: juicy, flavorful tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, sweet corn—the list goes on and on. But if you’re a dessert person like me, there’s nothing better than local fruit, and particularly stone fruit: plums, peaches, apricots, and cherries.
There’s an endless list of amazing desserts that can be made with them and the great thing is, when these fruits are at their peak of ripeness and flavor, the desserts can be simple and easy to prepare so that the fruit flavors can shine.
Starting with cherries in mid- to late June and wrapping up with the last of the peach, nectarine, and plum harvest in mid-September, the stone fruit season is reasonably long and, whether you decide to pick your own or swing by a farmers market, you can be assured of some good-quality, juicy, local fruit.
Now the bad news: according to Michael Smolak of Smolak Farms in North Andover, MA, there will not be any peaches north of Rhode Island this year. Unfortunately, the deep freeze in February took care of that. However, many varieties of plums, pluots, and cherries have come through just fine and will be available for picking or at markets this summer.
Here’s a look at the picking season. Just remember that this is an approximation and it’s a good idea to call ahead or check a farm’s website before heading out.
The other great thing about the different varieties of stone fruit is that they are easily interchangeable; each of the recipes that follow can be made with any of these fruits, according to taste and availability.
LATE JUNE TO EARLY JULY: Cherries
AUGUST TO MID-SEPTEMBER: Peaches (from RI or south), Plums, Pluots, Nectarines
Lisa Sewall graduated from Johnson and Wales in Providence. She then came to Boston and worked at Biba, before going to Nantucket to work at the White Elephant, Summer House, and Wauwinet. She returned to Boston and was the Pastry Chef at L’Espalier (where she met, Jeremy, her husband.) For five years, she lived in Northern California as the opening Pastry Chef at Ondine in Sausalito. In 2006, she and Jeremy opened Lineage in Brookline. Lisa and Jeremy have three kids which keeps her out of professional kitchens for the moment!