“Sun crest is one of the last remaining truly juicy peaches. When you wash that treasure under a stream of cooling water, your fingertips instinctively search for the mushy side of the fruit. Your mouth waters in anticipation. You lean over the sink to make sure you don’t drip on yourself. Then your sink you teeth into the flesh, and the juice trickles down your cheeks and dangles on your chin. This is a real bite, a primal act, a magical sensory celebration announcing that summer has arrived.” ~ David Mas Masumoto
At 6:00 a.m. the summer sun in the central valley is just beginning to stretch and yawn as she opens her bright eyes from her night’s slumber. She wakes slowly at first, taking in deep breaths of the cool night air. With soft glows of amber she begins to show herself gently waking the earth with a whisper of warmth as she exhales. To the early riser she is like coddling mother’s soft touch who gently kisses her sleeping child’s forehead good morning. The locals here know all too well, what her habits are, and can predict that she will be wide awake by 11:00 a.m. with temperatures radiating well over 100 degrees. We are witnesses to this grand awakening. It’s 6:00 a.m. and we are on the road, eager to reach our destination while the sun slowly climbs into the horizon, but this isn’t the only reason we set our alarms. We fell asleep dreaming about a farmer and his peach.
As we pull off the freeway we enter a maze of old roads lined with lush green fields and endless orchards of citrus and olives as far as the eye can see. In this ocean of farms, each farm begins to look like the other. Like seeds scattered without thought, farm houses sprout up here and there with no sense of adhering to neighborhood order or the boundaries often found in the tract housing so common where I live in Southern California. Weathered old barns, leaning wooden fences, and old oak trees cast their shade over these humble homes, sheltering them from the summer’s relentless heat. Rusted trucks, lazy dogs, and children’s swing sets decorate the front lawns, and I can’t help but think to myself, ” Real people live here, who are they?” I was about to find out …
David Mas Masumoto like hundreds of others, is a farmer in the Central Valley. On any ordinary day, anybody passing by his rows of peach trees on the narrow farm road might not even take notice, but today was not an ordinary day. Today, the large crowd of people hustling about under a thick cloud of fine dust in the parking lot of the orchard became anything but unnoticeable. We would all soon learn that somebody far from an ordinary farmer was about to be revealed to us. Instead, we met a man who took his ordinary job, combined it with purpose, passion, art, and grew something extraordinary. As for us, we were here to reap the harvest of what he had so sacrificially sown.
Invited by Melissa’s Produce, I was in good company with a group of talented food writers & chefs who had been chosen to participate in harvesting the fruit from the “Adopt a Elberta Peach and Le Grand Nectarine Tree” . We all knew we would be taking home peaches and nectarines and that it would be hot, but I don’t think any of us could have predicted how impacted we would be by meeting David Mas Masumoto and his family.
David Masumoto is a 3rd generation Japanese American farmer who has devoted his life to a calling that is often taken for granted by those it serves. He has taken his life as a farmer and has turned it into a literary art that is now reaching thousands through his books and his adopt a tree program. By sharing his art in this unique way he is closing the gap that separates the farmer and consumer. It is easy for all of us to walk the produce aisle picking and choosing whatever suits our fancy, without a passing thought of the farmer and the farm workers that have dedicated themselves to this back-breaking work. We look for sales, complain about high prices, and often discriminate against the workers who sweat in the summer sun to pick our food. It seemed fitting, being the artist that he is, that David started the day at the farm with a reading of his work titled : “Sweat”.
Art is personal, what one may love another dislikes. One artist paints for money, another dances for free, while yet another strums the strings of a guitar on a street corner for the audience. Art appeals to all our senses and when we connect with the art we find ourselves drawn to the artist, and then in return we get a glimpse of the artist that lies within ourselves. On this clear warm summer morning David was having a showing, the gallery was the field, and the art hung from the trees waiting to be discovered.
We eagerly climbed the ladder with yellow buckets in hand and pulled the warm glowing fruit from the tree. The tree, in turn, was ready and willing to yield its beautiful art to us. We laughed and giggled like children with popsicles in the sun, unstoppable peach and nectarine juice squirting and dripping down our chins, hands, and arms. Each bite was as good as the first and as the bright acidic flavors of sunshine and summer sweetness flowed down our faces … we all stood intoxicated with all our senses fully engaged. David’s art had touched us all, we felt drawn to him, connected to one another, and to ourselves…
Home from the trip, I sat at the dinner table sharing the events of the weekend, but I knew there was no better way to explain the fruit rather than to let them taste it for themselves. At first I was going to cut a peach into slices, then instinctively I remembered. The best part of the experience is to bite into the peach and let the juice run down your chin. Watching their eyes light up might have been the best part of the weekend, my son watching cartoons in the other room squealed with delight that could be heard throughout the house. He yelled out, “Buy more of these mom!”
The peach and nectarine season at Masumoto Farm is from May – late August, so there is still time for you to get your hands on some of this select fruit. Look for Melissa’s Produce label at your local market or you can always go online or call Melissa’s direct and they will assist you in finding a store near you. I like to think of them as my personal art dealer, specializing in only the best.
Check back here this week for more recipes and pictures using the Elberta Peach and Le Grand Nectarine from myself and my friends that accompanied me on the trip. Coming soon, peach honey butter! For the latest news and updates in produce you can follow Melissa’s Produce on Facebook.
Nancy at A Communal Table - PEACH Cranachan
Priscilla at She’s Cooking - Heirloom Peach Cobbler
Dorothy at Shockingly Delicious - Summer Nectarine Chicken Salad