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To market, to market

Summer’s juicy fruit: Sweet peaches and ripe melons are rolling into markets and fruit stands.

By WAVENEY ANN MOORE

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 6, 2001


Fruit is making its way to markets just in time to cool rising temperatures. Refreshing watermelons, cantaloupes and honeydews seem designed by nature for the hot weather.

It also is the season for Georgia peaches, grown mostly in Fort Valley in that state's central region. At Big 6 Farm in Fort Valley, harvesting started about a month ago.

"It's better than average," manager Bill McGehee, the great-great grandson of the man who started Georgia's peach industry in 1887, says of this year's crop.

"It's a nice crop that has extra good color and high sugar content. That is what we go by. How they look and how they taste."

Shoppers, though, are better off judging a peach simply by its taste, says McGehee, who runs Big 6 with five family members, hence the "6" in the farm's name.

"I would encourage people to remember to buy not so much by sight, but by taste. You don't take them home as a decoration, but to eat them. I would be bold enough to ask the clerk to let me taste them," McGehee advises.

Of course, that bit of audacity is more easily indulged at smaller markets, he admits. Most shoppers will have to make do with trying to judge a prime peach by touch.

"It's knowing the difference between immature, green fruit and fruit that is ready to eat," McGehee says. "When you touch it, it should have a little bit of give to it. The softer the fruit, the higher the sugar content, but the quicker you have to eat it."

Right now Big 6 peaches are being shipped to distributors and supermarket chains in Tampa Bay area markets, McGehee says, adding that shoppers should expect moderate prices this season.

Even as the Florida produce season winds down, the watermelon harvesting will continue. June ends the season for cantaloupes and honeydews from Texas' Rio Grande Valley, says Edith Chenault, extension communications specialist for the Texas Agricultural Extension Service. Cantaloupes from Pecos, in western Texas, distinguished by their sweetness, should be available throughout the summer, however.

Selecting the right melon doesn't have to be a hit-or-miss proposition, Chenault says. "You can smell a melon. I do that all the time. I can't tell you what I'm looking for, but it smells like a ripe melon. It smells sweet."

Produce

In season now are apricots, avocados, snap beans, blueberries, cabbage, cantaloupes, cherries, cucumbers, bell peppers, sweet corn, mangos, nectarines, okra, peaches, plums, tomatoes, watermelons, honeydews and summer squash.

Seafood

To hear Gib Migliano tell it, shoppers will pay rock bottom prices for seafood this June.

"The price of fish is going down," says Migliano of Save on Seafood in St. Petersburg. He says several factors account for the low prices.

"It's that time of year when the weather is perfect and the boats are out there. We're in between tourists and there's the uncertainity of the economy. Everything is dropping substantially."

For instance, says Migliano, grouper fillets should sell for around $6.99 to $7.99 a pound.

Time is dwindling to shop for fresh red snapper from the Gulf of Mexico. After Sunday fresh red snapper will not be available until the season reopens in September. Prices should be around $3.99 a pound for the whole fish and $8.99 a pound for fillets.

Yellowfin tuna, which is migrating from Caribbean waters, is in season as well and a good buy, Migliano says. Tuna steaks will cost around $6.99 a pound, he says.

Prices for North Atlantic farm-raised salmon, also a good value in June, should be around $3.99 a pound for fillets.

Shrimp will be a bargain, Migliano says. Medium pink shrimp will cost about $5.99 a pound; large, $7.99 a pound, and jumbo, around $9.99 a pound.

Although there may be plenty of fish to go around this June, blue crabs probably will be scarce, according to Migliano. "Blue crab products," he says, "are very, very tight, very expensive."

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