No one would ever call me a foodie and I’m certainly no locavore. I tend to eat whatever is in front of me. But I have one big exception: fruit, especially nectarines and peaches. I’ve just got to have that sweet nectar of the nectarine when it's fresh. So, in late summer I embark on a quest looking for fresh, local nectarines and peaches.
But beyond the vague “late summer” I didn’t really know the best times for local nectarines or any other fruits for that matter. So I found out and I’m sharing it with you. But remember: when fruits are ripe and ready can vary year to year depending on weather.
Cherries are one of Idaho’s three top fruit crops. Apples and peaches are the other two. Sometimes Idaho cherries aren’t ready until July but a lot of Idaho fruit (including cherries) is early this year because warm spring weather came early.
Leah Clark with the Idaho Preferred program at the state Department of Agriculture says local cherries should start arriving at farmers’ markets, co-ops, Whole Foods and Paul’s markets the week of June 8th and Albertson’s and Walmart the week after.
“Cherries are one of those that are a pretty short season,” Clark says. “We’ll be in and out of cherries in four to six weeks. So people need to be on the lookout, snag them while they’re here because they just really aren’t here that long.”
Idaho is not a big berry producing state so you may have to go to a farmers’ market or even a farm to find some of them. Local strawberries are available now. Some varieties of raspberries will be ripe in June as well.
Idaho grown apricots become available right as cherries are running out. That’s usually in late July but likely mid-July this year. They aren’t as common a crop as cherries so they might be harder to find. Apricots grown in Idaho tend to be bigger than the ones sold in stores year-round.
If you’ve got to have watermelon on the Fourth of July it will probably have to come from out of state. Watermelon is another Idaho fruit that will be ready earlier this year so start looking for them mid-month.
Idaho grows a lot of other kinds of melons as well. Cantaloupe and honeydew have been around for a while but more exotic ones like snow leopard and canary melons are grown now according to Idaho Preferred. Some local melons are available into the fall.
At last they’re here, I’ve waited so long. I could have included them in late July but I wanted to build the suspense and August is the peak time for Idaho nectarines.
Plums and Pluots
A pluot is a cross between a plum and an apricot. I guess nobody liked the name aprum. Both pluots and their ancestor the plum are ripe in Idaho in August and into September. Like apricots, the plums and pluots grown in Idaho tend to be bigger than those found in stores in the off season.
August is the start of Idaho’s second raspberry crop and it’s when blackberries get ripe. You may have to go to the grower for local blackberries or pick them yourself. And if you’re picking already, head to the mountains for huckleberries.
I could have included Idaho peaches in late August but they’re good all through September. Plus I need a full month with my nectarines before moving on to their fuzzy replacement. As one of Idaho’s top fruit crops, peaches are widely available and easy to find.
California grapes have been about all you could get for months. Now you’ve got two months tops to get fresh, local grapes. Idaho wine grapes ripen up in September as well.
These may also be available in late August, but again, I’m busy eating nectarines. Pears are weird (but delicious) in that they ripen best off the tree. They also store well. So Idaho pears can be considered “fresh” through November even though they’re picked in September. That’s probably why I think of them as a fall fruit and don’t start eating them until all the peaches are gone.
Some Idaho apples can be picked as early as August but we didn’t want October to feel left out. In fact you can pick Idaho apples into November. Apples store even better than pears, that’s why you’ll see local apples labeled as fresh well into the spring. Most years apples are the state’s top fruit crop.
The Winter Of Our (fruit related) Discontent
A lot of the stuff on this list freezes well, so you can stock up over the summer. And of course there are things like jam that preserve (pun intended) the memory of fresh fruit for a long time. There is some fruit grown in Idaho greenhouses year round, including bananas and other denizens of the tropics but it can be hard to come by. So, other than apples, your local fresh fruit options are slim until May when the first Idaho strawberries might be ripe.
Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter occasionally @cotterelladam
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