The Washington Post

It’s hard to stay stone-faced at the prospect of summer stone fruit


For some people, summer is corn season. For others, it’s tomato season. While I love both those beacons of the warm-weather months, it’s really no contest: For me, summer is stone-fruit season.

You might be able to tell just by walking up to my front yard, where I planted a tree on each side of the walkway, one peach and one plum. The peach is a year older, it’s growing like mad, and three years after planting it, in April I practicall­y broke down in tears when I saw the first little fruits on its branches. When I called my husband over, I was almost hyperventi­lating, and I think he thought I was having some kind of anxiety attack when what I was really having was a joy attack.

The plum tree is growing nicely, too. It’s not quite half the size of the peach tree, and while there were no blossoms (and therefore no fruit) on its branches this year, I’m thinking next year, its third, might also be the charm. Fingers crossed.

The idea, of course, is to be able to go out into my yard any day of the growing season and have my pick of fruit: strawberri­es, blackberri­es, raspberrie­s, figs and cherries in the back and peaches and plums out front (along with apples and/ or pears once I get those trees planted and producing). It’s my idea of heaven, and of wealth — the kind of wealth that’s worth passing down. As Audrey Hepburn once said, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” When you plant a fruit tree, you’re believing not just about tomorrow, but about generation­s of tomorrows.

Until then, I get my stone fruit wherever and whenever I can — ideally from farmers markets and farm stands and pick-yourown places, or from friends who have visited one or the other and returned with too large a bounty to handle. Let me be clear: I have never had too large a bounty to handle.

Most of them, I eat out of hand, or I cut them up and add them to my overnight oats. I puree them into smoothies, gazpachos and sorbets, process them into jam, bake them into pies and cakes and, in one of my favorite uses, add them to salads for pops of tart juicy sweetness among savory crunchy vegetables.

The latter is what this recipe features. It’s a beautiful, richly hued concoction from Desiree Nielsen, a registered dietitian whose latest book, “Good for Your Gut,” features plant-based recipes aimed at digestive health (and enjoyment). Here, you layer red or black plums with bitter radicchio, dates, walnuts and mint, and drizzle it all with a tahini-yogurt dressing. It’s the kind of no-cook, low-effort, highreward recipe on which I build my summer eating, and I suggest you do, too.

The plums for these came from one of my favorite fruit vendors at one of my favorite farmers markets, but you can substitute any of the best stonefruit specimens you can find, where you can find them: white or yellow peaches or nectarines, plums or apricots, sweet or sour cherries.

I would be delighted to substitute my own peaches in this treatment, but that wasn’t possible this year, and not because I had other plans for them.

In mid-spring, when the peaches were big enough, I thinned them out, as recommende­d, and watched them grow until . . . an ant infestatio­n took some out, an early heat wave caused more to drop, and birds started to have their way. I undertook various interventi­ons, but by mid-june a dozen peaches were left, then a half-dozen, then a handful, then zero. Almost as quickly as they had proliferat­ed, they evaporated.

Such is the life of a gardener. Some years are good, some not so good, and you learn to roll with Mother Nature’s punches.

I’ve chosen to focus not on the lack of peaches, but the overall apparent health of the tree. As long as it keeps getting stronger, I’ ll have many more chances at fruit, and will adjust my interventi­ons based on what I learned. I’m never going to stop trying, because the day I have enough peaches, plums and other fruits from my own trees that I can throw them into salads is the day I might just have another joy attack.

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