Masumoto hopes to pull us all into his affair with fuzzy fruit.
For some 30 years, Mas Masumoto has planted heirloom peaches on his family's organic farm near Fresno, Calif. Dismayed by the tough skin and pallid taste of supermarket versions, Masumoto has turned his life to pursuing the perfect peach. He's written six books and gives talks and readings nationwide (go to www.masumoto.com).
Q What got you into peach farming?
A I wanted to grow fruits with the kind of fantastic flavor that people remember from childhood and to teach people how to be engaged with their food.
Q Why organic?
A It's better for the environment, and I felt it wasn't right to raise my kids on a farm where they couldn't play outside because we had just sprayed the fields. It's also hard as a family farm to compete with mass production. Organic just fit everything together.
Q What's wrong with most peaches?
A They're grown to supermarket ripeness standards: just juicy enough, just firm enough. My peaches have more flavor and we pick them riper.
Q The best varieties?
A I tend to choose older heirlooms that taste wonderful but are perhaps cosmetically challenged. Elbertas, magical, delicate peaches that bruise if you stare at them too long, helped start our adopt-a-tree program.
Q Your adopt-a-tree program?
A During weekends in July or August, people come and pick the trees clean, taking home between 200 and 400 pounds of peaches from each tree. That's over 1,000 peaches, or 200 peach pies. People trade recipes while they're picking, and they take home their harvest to give to their neighbors. It's all part of the lost tradition of sharing food that I'm trying to bring back.
Photography by Gary Kazanjian
This article was first published in July 2007. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.