SOURCE: Washington State Fruit Commission
YAKIMA, WA--(Marketwire - Aug 28, 2012) - It's hitting the 2012 peak season for stone fruit in Washington, and the state's peaches, nectarines, plums and prunes will be available on grocery shelves nationwide mid-August through late September. To help consumers best preserve the fruits well passed peak season, the website www.sweetpreservation.com, created by the Washington State Fruit Commission, provides preservation tips, canning recipes, craft ideas, downloadable jar labels and more.
Stone fruits from Washington orchards -- which account for only a small percentage of the nation's yield -- are prized by food enthusiasts for their exceptional sweetness and balance of flavor due to the region's unique microclimates and ancient volcanic soils that make for ideal growing conditions. Each season the trees receive considerably more sunlight than southern regions of the country, contributing to higher sugar content in the fruit. The semi-arid growing region's cool nights also help the fruit retain their natural acidity, resulting in an ideal culinary balance. This year's crop is said to be extra delicious due to a cooler spring and late arrival of summer, resulting in longer hang time on the tree.
"The longer stone fruit hangs on the branch, the sweeter it is because there is more time to build up natural sugar content," explains James Michael, Promotions Director for the Washington State Fruit Commission. "Thanks in part to a cooler spring, this season the fruits will be on the branch longer than normal, so they will be exceptionally sweet and flavorful."
Not content to enjoy these treasured fruits only in the summer, fruit canning and preservation has made a comeback in recent years and is surging in popularity across the U.S and Canada. Jarden Corporation reported in 2011 that sales of canning jars have increased by 30 percent since 2008, and if displays in grocery stores are any indication, this trend is not showing any signs of stopping. To help consumers "put up" their stone fruit and enjoy a healthy, nutrient-rich treat year round, the Washington State Fruit Commission provides a few simple tips, with much more available at their community-oriented website SweetPreservation.com:
- It's not all about jars. Many fruits, including peaches, apricots and plums, freeze easily and it's a simple process of packing them in a freezer bag with syrup or sugar, or as a purée.
- Know what to look for when buying fruit. As a rule of thumb, peaches and nectarines should be purchased at their ripest and used immediately when preserving -- pick fruit that is firm with good color. For plums, select ones that are fairly firm to slightly soft, and avoid those with wrinkled or broken skin.
- Turn your efforts into thoughtful homemade gifts and party favors for weddings, hostess gifts, holidays and beyond. Downloadable canning labels can be printed at home and coupled with unique packaging for a striking presentation.
- Many hands make light work. Throw a fun preservation party at home and let everyone pitch in, then divide the fruits of your labor.
About Northwest Cherries and Washington State Fruit Commission
Founded in 1947, the Washington State Fruit Commission is a grower's organization funded by fruit assessments to increase awareness and consumption of regional stone fruits. The organization is dedicated to the promotion, education, market development, and research of stone fruits from Washington orchards. For more information, visit www.wastatefruit.com.
Editor's Note: High-res images and recipes available upon request.