Sometimes when I cut a peach in half, the flesh comes away from the pit like a dream, but sometimes it hangs on for dear life. What am I doing wrong?
You're not doing anything wrong except failing to recognize the difference between freestone peaches and clingstones. These two terms, which probably sound vaguely familiar, can be used to describe any "stone fruit" (e.g. peaches, nectarines, plums, etc.).
Prudence Wickham, one of the partners of Wickham's Fruit Farm in Cutchogue, N.Y., explains that freestone and clingstone are not varieties of peaches - "they are characteristics." In other words, every peach variety is either a clingstone or a freestone.
She says that while freestones "taste better, are easier to work with and keep longer," farmers grow clingstones because they can extend the growing season by as much as two months. The clingstones ripen in June and the freestones aren't ready until early August.
In fact, Wickham said, the clingstones are preceded by an even more devilish peach, the "split pit," whose stone is so soft that your knife will cut right through it. This fruit has a tendency to rot from the inside out, so she always advises customers to eat them as soon as possible.
Erica Marcus writes for Newsday. E-mail your queries to email@example.com, or send them to Erica Marcus, Food/Part 2, Newsday, 235 Pinelawn Road, Melville, NY 11747-4250.