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Kiwis Peachy Keen on Californian Fruit

Kiwis Peachy Keen on Californian Fruit

New Zealanders munched their way through nearly 11 million Californian nectarines, peaches and plums last winter – and there’s no need for fans to stew, with the first deliveries of California fruits available now.

Consumer feedback shows that almost two-thirds of kiwis (64%) purchased Californian summer fruits regularly last winter. The strong New Zealander dollar means an anticipated drop in fruit prices – and importers are predicting another bumper season this year.

Lisa Cork, Director of The Marketing Department Limited New Zealand, which represents more than 700 Californian fruit growers, says the fruit is fast becoming a regular part of many New Zealanders’ winter diets.

“We’re expecting per kilo prices to be on a par with New Zealand-grown summer fruit this year making these peaches, plums and nectarines affordable and a perfect complement to the seasonal fruit available during winter here,” she says.

Available in New Zealand from June to September, the fruits are among 200 varieties of peaches, 200 types of plums and 175 kinds of nectarines grown in the San Joaquin Valley in California.

New to the market this season, Californian white-fleshed peaches and nectarines, known as “Summerwhite®, are recognisable by their vibrant pink skin and white flesh.

“Summerwhite® fruits are perfect for the winter fruit bowl,” says Cork. “These fruits taste sweet even when they’re firm and crunchy. Those who prefer a softer piece of fruit can leave it in the fruit bowl for a day or two and still enjoy the same great flavour.”

California nectarines, peaches and plums are available in supermarkets nationwide now.

CALIFORNIA NECTARINES, PEACHES AND PLUMS

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Where do they come from?

· Over 7.7 billion kilograms of plums, peaches and nectarines are packed each spring and summer in the United States – with over 75 percent grown in California.

· Most fresh California nectarines, peaches and plums are grown in San Joaquin Valley, south of Fresno in California.

· California nectarines, peaches and plums are readily available in New Zealand from June until September.

Varieties

· California commercially produces more than 200 varieties of peaches, 200 types of plums and 175 kinds of nectarines.

· California nectarines and peaches are available in both yellow and white-fleshed varieties. The white-flesh California nectarines and peaches are called Summerwhite® and because their sugar/acid ratio does not change when these varieties ripen, they are just as sweet when firm or soft.

· Yellow-fleshed California nectarines and peaches are ideal for eating fresh and, as an added bonus, they can be used for cooking in winter for main dishes, desserts and are great served warm for breakfast.

· Summerwhite® varieties are less suitable for cooking and are enjoyed best fresh from the fruit bowl.

Storage and Ripening

· California nectarines, peaches and plums are picked firm, but mature, so they travel well and arrive in excellent condition.

· Firm fruit should never be stored in the refrigerator, it should be stored in a warm room over 10°C.

· Ripening can be sped up by placing fruit in a paper bag in a warm room and ensuring the bag is closed.

· Summerwhite® fruits soften faster than traditional yellow-flesh fruits, so check them often.


The History of Nectarines, Peaches, Summerwhites and Plums

· Nectarines: Nectarines are closely related to the peach, however there is some controversy as to which came first. Some historical evidence indicates that the nectarine is actually the ancestral form of the peach and that peaches were developed by crossing nectarines and almonds.

Before World War II, nectarines were small, pale-skinned, white-fleshed and rather dry. In 1942, a plant breeder from central California by the name of Fred Anderson developed a nectarine variety called the Le Grand. The Le Grand is the father of every single modern variety. Today, there are over 175 different varieties of nectarines produced in California. Annual production in California totals 20 million boxes, all harvested from late April through mid-September.

Nectarines are a good source of vitamin C and contain potassium, iron and fibre as well as a variety of phytonutrients

· Peaches: Peaches were first cultivated in China as early as the 10th century B.C. and were eventually carried by caravan to the Mediterranean. Peaches were first planted in California by mission fathers but were not commercially produced until the late 1800s when railroads and irrigation water became available.

Today there are over 200 different varieties of commercially grown fresh market peaches each with their own unique harvesting time and characteristics. Annual production of peaches from California totals about 19 million boxes. Peaches are a good source of vitamin C and contain vitamin A, potassium and fibre. They also have a variety of phytonutrients.

· Summerwhite® peaches and nectarines: Although it may appear that peaches and nectarines with pale and white flesh are new, they are actually a return to the past. Many early nectarine and peach varieties had white flesh.

However, today’s fruit is much improved. There are more varieties now available and fruit has more consumer appeal. White-flesh fruits tend to be lower in acid, which makes them taste sweeter than traditional yellow varieties. Today about 20 percent of California’s nectarine and peach production is made up of white-flesh varieties. Volume is growing and they now carry the registered name of “Summerwhite®”. Summerwhite® nectarines and peaches always have the same sweet taste, no matter how firm or soft they are.

· Plums: Like peaches and nectarines, plums are members of the genus called Prunus. Plums come in two types: Prunus salicina (Japanese) or Prunus domesticas (European). Japanese plums, which make up the majority of Californian plum varieties, are tarter tasting, juicier and larger than European plums. They also come in the widest range of colours – red, purple, black, green and yellow.

Japanese plums were first introduced to the U.S. in the late 1800s when legendary plant breeder Luther Burbank imported the parent stock from the Satsuma province of Japan.

European plums, which are produced for the fresh market in fewer quantities, were first introduced to America by the Pilgrims. They tend to be blue or purple, longer or more oval-shaped, smaller and sweeter than the Japanese varieties.

California’s fresh plum crop ranges anywhere from 10 to 18 million boxes annually.


Plums are high in vitamin C and contain vitamin A, potassium and fibre. They also contain a variety of phytonutrients.

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