I wish I were the type of person to wake up early on a Saturday and spend my morning perusing and selecting summer fruit at the farmers market. But it’s time for radical self acceptance: That’s more wishful thinking than reality. I’m often not quick enough to snatch my favorite berries or peaches straight from the farmstand, and shelling out for some about-to-mold fruit at the local grocer doesn’t seem like a smart alternative.
Conversely, an abundance of fruit also poses quandaries. One of my favorite summer activities is going to u-pick fruit; sometimes I make it to Sauvie Island during the Hood strawberry sweet spot, and sometimes it’s a drive out to Hood River for cherries. But I tend to get overzealous, and pick more than I could possibly eat. Some is given to friends and neighbors, but inevitably, there’s always a bit of fruit that goes bad in my quest to eat it at peak freshness. So for me, there’s one main way I like to eat summer produce: frozen and scooped into a cone or cup.
In ice cream, peak season fruit is frozen in time at the height of flavor. It’s easy, and there’s no waste. And considering Portland’s national reputation as an ice cream destination, it’s not a surprise scoop shops and vendors have mastered their seasonal fruit flavors. Over at Pinolo, gelato maestro Sandro Paolini regularly works his magic on local fruit. This month, Topaz Farm marionberries are on the menu, married with fresh ricotta and rosemary for a mind-numbingly delicious (and I don’t mean brain freeze) flavor called agreste. Part of the magic of summer is its small wonders: sand between your toes, enjoying a ripe peach over the sink, or eating an ingredient in a dish that somehow tastes like an amplified version of itself. Paolini does that; harnessing the essence of fruit and making it shine.
We’re also in the thick of stone fruit season, and summer peaches are getting the Sugarpine treatment — the drive-in purposed the fruit into a lemongrass-peach sauce which is drizzled over its summer peach and sesame sundae in golden ribbons. Naomi Pomeroy’s Cornet Custard is also churning out an ode to Oregon peaches; fruit from Baird Family Orchards pops like bursts of sunshine in pints of peaches and cream.
Because these flavors are dependent on the availability of the fruit, when it’s gone, it’s gone, much like the fruit itself. You can freeze summer in time, but you can’t keep people from recognizing something special while it’s here. Don’t miss out.