Let’s take a minute to thank Mother Nature for allowing peaches and tomatoes to share a season. It’s either a lovely coincidence or the perfect example of the truism “what grows together goes together.” Both delicious fruits reach their sweet, full ripeness between May and and September, depending on region and varietal.
Peaches mature best in sunny, 75-degree weather. Cooler temperatures can have one of two effects—the fruit becomes either bitter or flavorless. Similarly, tomatoes favor 68 to 77 degrees. When nighttime temperatures dip below 50, the plant can become stunted and the fruit misshapen. But above 85, the tomato’s red pigments don’t develop, turning it greenish orange or white.
To select a perfect tomato, take it in your hand. It should be firm, with a faint aroma when you smell it, and heavy for its size. Likewise, if a peach doesn’t have fragrance, then it won’t have flavor. Always smell. And don’t refrigerate either fruit: Peaches and tomatoes are both climacteric, meaning that they’re metabolically active even after they’re picked, improving in texture and flavor until they reach peak ripeness and start to decay. Refrigeration slows the release of enzymes that soften the fruit by loosening the pectins and glycans that bind the cells together. This can cause cells to clump, making both tomatoes and peaches mealy and less capable of releasing their juices. Best to store them on the counter at room temperature and eat them within a few days.
Fresh at the peak of the season, both so flavorful and juicy, it’s a sin to cook them. And when the two meet in a salad, it’s a beautiful thing. Peaches bring their bright, candy sweetness, while tomatoes pack an equally acidic nightshade umami and gentle bitterness. Pulled together with salt, olive oil, and a little vinegar, dropped on top of mozzarella or a similarly mild cheese, and perfumed with fresh herbs, as in our Marinated Peaches and Tomatoes with Burrata and Basil Oil (shipping this month), they hit all the flavor pleasure centers.
So be it coincidence or nature’s design, we’ll gratefully indulge in this confluence of flavor and enjoy it during these last few precious weeks of summer.