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How to Pick a Peach: The Search for Flavor from Farm to Table Paperback – Bargain Price, May 1, 2008

22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Equal parts cookbook, agricultural history, chemistry lesson and produce buying guide, this densely packed book is a food-lover's delight. California food writer Parsons (How to Read a French Fry) begins with a fascinating tale of agribusiness trumping our taste buds en route to supplying year-round on-demand produce, and how farmer's markets are bringing back both appreciation of, and access to, local and seasonal foods. He then takes readers on a delectable season-by-season produce tour, from springtime Artichokes Stuffed with Ham and Pine Nuts to midwinter Candied Citrus Peel, and provides readers with the lowdown on where each fruit or vegetable is grown and how to choose, store and prepare it. Along the way, he detours into low-stress jam making, the chemistry of tomato flavor, a portrait of two peach-growing stars of the Santa Monica farmer's market and why cucumbers make some people burp. For readers who have always wondered where their food comes from, why it tastes the way it does and how to pick a peach, a melon or a green bean, this book will be an invaluable resource. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"The lust for local flavor finds an eloquent spokesman in Russ Parsons..."How to Pick a Peach" is his answer to the somber reality of the supermarket produce section." (New York TImes )

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (May 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547053800
  • ASIN: B002CMLR9M
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,876,417 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

RUSS PARSONS is the food and wine columnist of the Los Angeles Times. He is the author of the best-selling How to Read a French Fry, a winner of multiple James Beard Awards for his journalism, and the recipient of the IACP/Bert Greene Award for distinguished writing. He lives in California, which produces more than half of the fruits and vegetables grown in this country. He has been writing about food and agriculture for more than twenty years.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 49 people found the following review helpful By KLS on June 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book serves both as an encyclopedic reference work, and as an informative, engaging read. The author admits that not ALL fruits and veggies are included, however it seems that all of the important ones are, particularly those that we need help with selecting. There is an unbelievable amount of basic information about picking fruits and vegetables, previously unavailable in collected form! Add in the historical research on farming, the updated perspective on farming trends and issues, and you have the ultimate shopper's guide, best kept in the glove compartment (after reading, of course) so that it's always there with you when you're going to market. "How to pick a Peach" should be required reading for every cook in America.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Seaotter on August 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've heard that the juice of a really good peach will run down your arms all the way to your elbows. One actually did make it almost to my elbows the other day. Not the kind of peaches you most often find in a supermarket, with only one peach in many having any juice or flavor.

The question is, "How do you select and store fresh fruits and veggies to insure the maximum excellence in taste and texture?" The answers are found in Russ Parsons' well written book, "How To Pick a Peach." He classifies each fruit and vegetable by season and not only tells you how to pick the best ones, but also how to store and prepare them. Russ also gives you several simple recipes for using each fruit and vegetable.

Some fragile veggies such as peas, corn and green beans should be eaten right after they are purchased. Some veggies, such as potatoes, onions, tomatoes and winter squash should never be refrigerated. When refrigerated the starch in potatoes turns to sugar and they lose flavor. This was new to me.

He gives an interesting short history of each fruit and veggie. He also gives a history of industrial farming and the cost of compromise when big farmers take over the production of our produce, which I really enjoyed. Now that I have read "How To Pick a Peach" it will make a valuable reference tool.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Christina Phillips on October 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As others have mentioned, this book is a nice reference and fun to read. I have tried only a few recipes, but they have all been WONDERFUL. To me, they give the ideal kinds of insights for simple ways to prepare food more effectively which can be extrapolated beyond the exact recipe. After trying the beet/cuc/feta salad, and not having much experience with beets, I continued to make a cold beet salad for my 3yearold all summer, at her request! Also, after preparing eggplant in ways I was accustomed and accepting that my daughter didn't like it, I tried his recipe for steamed eggplant (go figure!) and again my 3yearold loved it! (So did I. It's now my favorite eggplant preparation as well.)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Brian Connors VINE VOICE on November 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
Believe it or not, I have a writing life outside Amazon reviews, and one of my projects is an ongoing food blog with a heavy emphasis on kitchen science. As it happens, Russ Parsons is, while not one of my go-to authors, definitely someone whose work I like to keep around; his collection of essays and recipes, How to Read a French Fry, is a good book to sit down and browse just to learn dribs and drabs that might be covered in a more firehose-like manner in Cookwise or On Food and Cooking -- interesting, but sometimes a bit inessential. I'd wager I like this one better.

"How To Pick A Peach" covers numerous different varieties of produce, and again, there's a lot of material in here that can be found other places. But Parsons takes a slightly different approach from books like Rebecca Rupp's awesome Blue Corn and Square Tomatoes, focusing heavily on many of the reasons why modern produce is often less than optimal and offering solutions about what can be done about it. In particular, having only been published in 2007, it has a lot to say about relatively recent developments such as the widespread appearances of farmer's markets and their role in keeping small family farmers in business and rare and exotic vegetables and fruits in circulation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Cook in a Bar on May 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
I grew up eating fruits and vegetables from our family gardens or from a local farmer's market. Frankly, it spoiled me. My palate knows what a vegetable should taste like and knows how good freshly picked fruit can be. Because of that lucky experience, I've never really been satisfied with produce from the grocery store. Russ Parson's How to Pick a Peach: The Search for Flavor From Farm to Table helps me understand why.

Parsons, food editor for the LA Times, explains the reasoning behind buying produce locally and in-season. He details the conflict between growing produce for sturdiness in shipping instead of flavor, and it is clear what we are missing in the grocery stores. Within commercial agriculture the author writes, "there are significant rewards for growing more fruit, but there are precious few for growing better fruit." Farmers who have the talent to grow flavorful produce and put in the effort to keep them that way, are almost forced to go outside the normal supply chain, usually farmers' markets to sell directly to the consumer.

The book doesn't include every single fruit or vegetable, but it hits on good number of them. Organized by season, the book includes an interesting short history on each item and describes various farming trends. I was intrigued that several examples of marketplace success of imported fruit altered how our domestic farmers grew some types of produce, especially tomatoes and apples. There is still hope for folks who can't buy directly from the farmer.

Parsons helps arm his readers with some basic information about how to choose produce, how to store them once they are home, and then shares suggestions on basic preparation.
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