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Column: Where are the good peaches?

Mrs. Cline brought home Madera County, Calif., Flames Seedless table grapes not long ago that were absolutely incredible — huge, crispy and sweet as honey.

Bagged Romaine hearts and baby spinach have become staples at our household. My bride makes the meanest Mexican salad with salsa, corn chips, sour cream and Romaine hearts.

In traveling about for my job, supermarket visits are standard operating procedure to see the California bounty in the produce department.

Definitely make a point of going into at least one large supermarket when traveling outside of California to look around and help the cause by buying some fresh fruit.

That was the case recently on a vacation to the island of Kauai in Hawaii. We went into a large supermarket that catered to the local trade. Hawaiians love fruits and vegetables. The store’s produce department was not large by mainland standards, but well stocked nonetheless. Prominently displayed near the department’s entrance were a popular variety of California peaches. Nice, bright fruit on sale at a reasonable price invited customers to buy. They felt ripe (soft — not like baseballs) and had a fresh peach smell. Bought four. Many locals were doing the same.

Washed them at the hotel and took a big bite of one. Spit it out. Turned it over. Took another bit. Spit it out. Tossed that one. Next one would be good. Ditto. Ditto three more times. Toss all four within 30 minutes of purchase.

They were "mealy" and tasteless. Brown paper bag would never have helped those peaches. Not sure if they were over-ripe or had been damaged by cold in transit. Naturally disappointed in being gypped, but also ashamed because I am part of the California agricultural industry. Wondered how many customers returned peaches to the store for a refund or, worse yet, simply tossed them all, vowing never to be "suckered" again.

Unfortunately, that has happened more than once when purchasing stone fruit from a supermarket. It is bewildering that stopping at a roadside fruit stand yields superior quality fruit than at the local grocery store — often mere miles apart in the central valley. Packers and shippers say stone fruit cannot be shipped too ripe; must ripen in transit or it will not be good. That is getting old. There is a roadside fruit stand near Reedley, Calif., on Highway 180. It sells the biggest, freshest, sweetest, firmest fruit. You can wash it and eat it right there. It looks as if it would ship just fine.

It is disappointing to see producers and packers of table grapes and fresh and packaged vegetables and other California commodities continue to raise the quality standard to draw in more consumers while the stone fruit industry continues to turn consumers away.

Admittedly, I am only one consumer with a few disappointments. However, I have never purchased table grapes or fresh vegetables I had to toss in the trash.

e-mail: hcline@primediabusiness.com

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