Free The Stone: The Difference Between Clingstone and Freestone Peaches

I’m not sure about you but I count down the days to peach season each year. Something about these sweet, yet tart fruits just screams summertime. So at the first chance I get, I head over D’Amico’s Farm Stand in Closter, New Jersey and buy some fresh peaches. What I love about D’Amico’s is the fact that the owner of this 60-year family-run business, John D’Amico, only sources from small farms within a 200-mile radius of Closter. That means, most of his delicious, freshly picked fruits and vegetables come from south Jersey, which is at the heart of the Garden State. D’Amico’s has clingstone fruit until the summer reaches its apex of heat and then begins offering freestone. So, what’s the difference?

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Clingstone peaches from Southern Jersey at D’Amico’s farm stand in Closter, NJ

At first glance, there is no difference between a clingstone and freestone peach, both fuzzy and reddish-pink on the outside. On the inside, however, is where the difference lies. The best way to figure out if your peaches are clingstone or freestone is by slicing the peach down the middle and pulling it apart. If the pit falls out easily, it is freestone. If not, clingstone.

Clingstone peaches are those that when opened, the pit sticks to the pulpy flesh of the fruit. According to goodhousekeeping.com, these peaches are rarely sold in stores but are used mostly in canned fruit. Depending on the location of the peach farm, harvest season for clingstones can range from mid-May to early August. But use them as long as you can! Their large and juicy peach-ness can be used to make great jellies, jams, purees and fantastic summer dishes.

Freestone peaches, on the other hand, separate easily from the fruit. Although larger and less juicy in texture, they are still undeniably sweet. Again, depending on the grower, freestones can be harvested from mid-June to early October. Generally freestone peaches last later into the season than clingstone peaches. They are perfect for cooking because they slice easily and uniformly, making them well-suited to great pie recipes that will leave your guests’ mouths watering.

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One of the best things about summer is the availability of fresh peaches. So whether you enjoy peaches in purees or in pies, these yummy fruits are the perfect means for sweetening up your summer.

 

-Contributions made by Sam Donsky

D’Amico’s Flower Farm, Closter, NJ: Farm Fresh Produce Sourced From 200 Mile Radius

Cheese pumpkins and other beautiful squash, starting at $5 - cheese pumpkins are ideal for baking
Cheese pumpkins and other beautiful squash, starting at $5 – cheese pumpkins are ideal for baking

Ask John D’Amico of D’Amico’s Flower Farm which apple is ideal for baking and you will get an answer as well as an in-depth explanation of how the texture of different varieties are impacted by weather. Traveling up to 200 miles multiple times each week to local farmers for what he considers the best in seasonal produce, eggs, cheese, cider (Melick’s non-preserved only from Hunterdon County), John groups these edibles along with plants and herbs under the modestly sized stand his family has managed for generations. On these darker, colder days of fall, I recently found a beautiful bounty of 12″ broccoli heads and cauliflower, just begging to be turned into pureed soups:

Jumbo heads of broccoli, $4 - a steal
Jumbo heads of broccoli, $4 – a steal
Equally reasonable heads of cauliflower - perfect for a quick saute and adding to pasta
Equally reasonable heads of cauliflower – perfect for a quick saute and adding to pasta

One of my favorite ways to serve cauliflower is to steam it until fork tender and add a splash of chicken stock, plenty of butter and grated parmigiano reggiano, then blend with an immersion hand blender.

Giant brussel sprouts, $3 per stalk
Giant brussel sprouts, $3 per stalk

Check out these massive brussel sprouts that look like they were just harvested. At $3.50/stalk, they offer another great buy from this small family farm stand. I love them roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper or steamed and sauced with lemon, butter and Worcestershire, a la New Orleans kitchens. These flavorful cabbage cousins are at peak season now and can even be julianned in salads.

Celeriac, either steamed and pureed or sliced matchstick style into salads or slaw
Celeriac, try either steamed and pureed or sliced matchstick style into salads or slaw

These gnarly celeriac knobs are beautiful and also competitively priced. A little patience and creativity goes a long way with these flavorful tubers.

Parsnip and rutabega not first on your shopping list? Great for an alternative to plain mashed white potatoes and loaded with vitamins.

Parnsip and rutabega
Parnsip and rutabega
Jersey tomatoes
Jersey tomatoes

I continue to buy these (sometimes in baskets half price when a bit bruised) to turn into soups, sauces and slicing into salads and sandwiches until John has no more.

Bosc pears
Bosc pears

Bosc pears are flavorful, hearty pears that remain unscathed in my kids’ lunch boxes since their skin is a bit firmer. They are juicy and full of sweetness. If we don’t eat them quickly enough and they soften and get mushy, they get tossed into a pot of steaming bruised apples (the more varieties the better), a couple inches of cinnamon stick and a half inch of water for apple sauce making. If I don’t have the good fortune of fresh or frozen cranberries on hand, I’ll throw in a handful of dried cranberries for their beautiful pink radiance and tang. But look what John just happened to get in!

NJ Cranberries
NJ Cranberries

I will use about four boxes of these beauties to make my Thanksgiving cranberry relish which is 100% raw. RAW!  I wash the cranberries and toss in my food processor fit with the steel blade, then puree with the peel of a washed navel orange, its juice, a small knob of fresh ginger, along with Vermont maple syrup to taste. This chunky relish is beautiful and delicious, not to mention packed with vitamin C.

Plenty of squash
Plenty of squash

No shortage of hard-fleshed squash at D’Amico’s.  At under $1/pound, it’s also well-priced with butternut and other varieties available through December 1.

and these decorative varieties, perfect for strewing about on buffet tables or down the center of your holiday table punctuated by tea candles
I love these decorative varieties, perfect for strewing about on buffet tables or down the center of your holiday table punctuated by tea candles
apples galore
apples galore

Bins of apples at D’Amico’s rotate multiple times weekly, so new varieties are always being added. Great pricing on wine sap and honey crisp and my favorite, pink lady. Not certified organic, but not sprayed.  John’s quite picky about how produce is grown.  Ask him about this.

What’s not shown in this post are shelves groaning with honey, preserves, chutneys and mustard as well as two large refrigerator cases filled with at least two varieties of mushrooms, kale, celery, herbs, baby arugula, beets (John won’t take them when they grow over a certain size) and carrots.  His offerings change on a daily basis.  Fresh Melick’s cider is available, along with fresh mozzarella, freshly ground horseradish, white potatoes, red bliss potatoes, yams and sweet potatoes, onions, leeks and much more.

Patronizing small business is what drives our economy and keeps families surviving economically from one generation to the next. This is one business worth patronizing not merely for the pristine quality of its offerings and the knowledge and passion of its owner, but also because it is a local business supporting local farmers. Through Thanksgiving, the Flower Farm will offer produce, plants (poinsettias soon) and then Christmas trees, wreaths and holiday plants after December 1.

November hours: 10:30AM-5:30PM 7 days, call for special orders, flower baskets and hours in December
460 Demarest Ave, Closter, NJ 07624
Phone:  (201) 767-1009

Palisades Community Center Offers Weekly Produce From Blooming Hill Farm, Bread From Balthazar

Carol Baxter, the force behind Palisades Community Center, has developed yet another way to bring fresh-from-the-farm produce to the community, this time in conjunction with Cindy Jones, the female force behind Blooming Hill Farm.  A very generously stuffed large shopping bag is available for $40 with fresh picks from the Blooming Grove, NY organic farm.  The bags are delivered to the steps of the Center which is near Route 9W at 675 Oak Tree Rd in Palisades. There’s a $20 registration fee.  Add additional fruit (another 2 pounds of apples and pears) for $5 and fresh loaves of Balthazar bread (varieties change weekly) for $5.  Organic eggs are $7 per dozen.   Email Carol by Tuesday to reserve your bag:  carolbaxter7@gmail.com.   Pick up is Friday morning between 9:00AM and 10:00AM at the Community Center.

Carol Baxter readies bags of produce for pick up at Palisades Community Center
Carol Baxter readies bags of produce for pick up at Palisades Community Center

Here are the contents of my bag:

Blooming Hill Farm bounty for $40
Blooming Hill Farm bounty for $40

Here’s a list of contents:

1. Squash

2. Parsnips

3. Eggplant

4. Baby Kale

5. Assorted Baby Lettuces

6. Broccoli

7. Potatoes

8. Plum Tomatoes

9. Onions

10. Garlic

11. Spinach

12. Celery (3 bunches)

13. Brussel sprouts

14. Baby carrots

15. Mixed color peppers

This is a wonderful option for people who don’t below to a CSA or have a farmers market near them or the chance to visit one.  The bounty is very robust and reasonably priced.  The beauty of having such a variety is that it forces you to find creative uses for the produce, at least putting a portion immediately to work.  As the weather cools, braising beckons and soups seem to seduce.   Tonight, I’ll roast a chicken and serve it with pan fried eggplant, a salad of the greens with apple cider vinaigrette and parsnip with cinnamon, apple cider and ginger roasted in a tangine.  (Thanks to Tracee Yablon Brenner for the tip.)

Farmers Markets Open: Northern Bergen NJ and Southern Rockland NY Top Picks

Warm weather is here and with it comes New Jersey and New York’s spring bounties. Find locally sourced produce at farmers markets, the farms that grow and sell or hubs which carry local, seasonal produce.

Here are some local favorites:

Demarest Farms grows a variety of fruits and vegetables and locally sources what it doesn’t. For hubcap-sized potato pancakes, fresh donuts or their Thursday night all-you-can-eat BBQs (chicken, ribs, burgers, hot dogs, corn, salad and watermelon slices) with live music. The farm also offers hayrides and peach picking from their own orchard, which begins in Mid-July.

When: Mon-Sun, 8AM-7PM
Where: 244 Wierimus RD, Hillsdale, NJ 07642

Piermont farmers market, with a beautiful view of the Hudson River in quaint Piermont, offers specialty items such as pickles, sauces, chocolate, spreads, frozen soups and chutneys along with NY, NJ and CT sourced fruits, vegetables, meat, beverages, seafood, dairy products. Notable vendors include: Dr. Pickle, Bread Alone, Migliorelli Farm, Valley Shepherd Creamery, Bombay Emerald Chutney Co., Eden Farms Greenhouse, John D Madura Farms, Kontoulis Family Olive Oil, Meredith’s Bread, Naturally Sweet Desserts,Rockland Farm Alliance and Tierra Farm.

When: Sundays, 9:30AM – 3PM, 05/26 – 11/24
Where: M & T Bank Parking Lot Piermont Ave & Ash St, Piermont, NY

Nyack farmers market is one of the oldest tri-state farmers markets and attracts almost 1,000 people every Thursday. The market offers organic produce, handmade cheese made from sheep’s milk, local wines and ciders, homemade marshmallows, hot sauce and BBQ sauce and various types of soap, oil, and wax sets. Some of the weekly vendors include: DOC Pickles, Taliaferro Farms, Valley Shepherd, Warwick Valley Winery and fabulous pies, muffins and cookies from The Pie Lady and Son.

When: Thursdays, 8 AM- 2 PM,
Where: 119 Main Street, Nyack, NY

Stokes farmers market is a 6th generation family farm with the freshest veggies and herbs (Hydroponic lettuce, Swiss chard, kale, greenhouse tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, garlic, spring onions). Shoppers can purchase herb and bedding plants, hanging baskets and vegetable plants.

When: July 3rd – October 26th, Tues & Fri, 11AM– 6PM
Where: 23 Dewolf Rd, Old Tappan, NJ

D’Amico Flower Farm market was established in 1987 and has a variety of lettuce, cucumbers, red and green peppers and locally sold mozzarella. D’Amico supplies their produce from farms in the lower Hudson valley and South Jersey. The market also carries McCutcheon’s preserves and locally sourced organic eggs. Owner John D’Amico carries either lightly or non-sprayed produce only.

When: Sunday 8:30 AM- 6 PM, Mon – Sat 8:30 am- 6:30 pm
Where: 460 Demarest Avenue, Closter, NJ

Garden-Fresh Lettuce
Garden-Fresh Lettuce
Assortment of Peppers
Assortment of Peppers
Bushels of Basil
Bushels of Basil
Heirloom Tomatoes
Heirloom Tomatoes