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How to Pick a Peach

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  584 Ratings  ·  116 Reviews
Critics greeted Russ Parsons’ first book, How to Read a French Fry, with raves. The New York Times praised it for its “affable voice and intellectual clarity”; Julia Child lauded it for its “deep factual information.” Now in How to Pick a Peach, Parsons takes on one of the hottest food topics today. Good cooking starts with the right ingredients, and nowhere is that more ...more
Hardcover, 412 pages
Published May 9th 2007 by Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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James and the Giant Peach by Roald DahlThe Grapes of Wrath by John SteinbeckTwilight by Stephenie MeyerA Clockwork Orange by Anthony BurgessOn the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder
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Community Reviews

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Petra X
May 05, 2015 Petra X rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant book, just as good as Parsons' previous one, How to Read a French Fry. Just as that book improved my cooking after I'd read just a few pages (really it did), this one immediately changed how I picked fruit in the supermarket and stored them. For instance, I didn't know that a few small brown spots on cauliflowers were only sun spots, so this week I bought a couple of them that had been reduced because of this, and found, like the book said, they didn't affect eating quality at all. ...more
May 22, 2013 Emily rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, meridian
This is a great resource for people wanting to know more about the common (and some not as common) fruits and veggies they eat: how to select the fruit/vegetable at its best, the seasonally best time to buy them, some very simple preparations that highlight the produce itself, some more complex recipes that sound sooooo yummy. Mr. Parsons states in the introduction that he is all about the taste of food; if you want to learn about the political, social, economic, environmental impact of food, ...more
Jan 06, 2011 Tim rated it it was amazing
If Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian was my encyclopedia of produce, what I would reference when bringing home produce, Parson's How to Pick a Peach would be the book that got me to seek out new produce. The background on how each variety of produce came into it's modern super-market form, the differences in varieties, and the farming methods employed are all insightful. I feel at least as informed as the local super-market produce manager...actually maybe a little better informed.

I li
Jul 29, 2012 April rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012-reads
The second library book I've bought recently within minutes of picking up...

I do not possess the magic skill of knowing how to pick ripe fruit. Or vegetables.

I thump watermelons. Unsure of what I am really listening for but everyone else seems to pick up, thump, shake their head, and place in cart. I simply follow hoping no one stops me to ask me my watermelon-picking philosophy.

Over time, I have learned that a ripe pineapple can be chosen if one of the top leaves can be easily plunked out. Ripe
Jan 06, 2009 Melissa rated it really liked it
So easy to read yet full of factual data on history of agricultural economics and agriculture as a commodity. The best part was I learned so many small things about the produce I eat every day such as the fact that cucumbers should not be refrigerated. This is a wonderful read for any food lover who desires to know how we got to commercial and industrialized farming of the modern world but how some farmers are trying to get us back to the true flavor of our foods. Organized by season, each ...more
This book is an apolitical, fast, easy read. The author includes a lot of scientific and historical information about various fruits and vegetables (very interesting!), discusses how to choose and prepare food, and provides recipes. He's snooty, but not completely over the top. I learned a good amount, but it wasn't quite what I expected-- I think the author could have been a lot more revolutionary in advising "the consumer" (oh, how I despise that term!) to take action to reclaim good fruits ...more
Absolutely an essential for anyone who loves food and wants it to taste as good as possible. Not only does the book let you know when different fruits and vegetables are in season, but it gives a brief history of each fruit/veggie family, tells you how to pick a good specimen, and gives both basic and more advanced preparation techniques. In just the past couple weeks, I've been much more adventurous with the different vegetables I've chosen.
Oct 13, 2007 Laura rated it liked it
This is a really lovely guide to picking local produce. I know, I'm lame, but it's really interesting and helpful. Written by the food critic for the LA Times, the writing is really...delicious.
Jul 15, 2007 Wendy rated it liked it
Recommends it for: produce freaks and people who want to know why they can't get a good tomato in January
Shelves: food
This book is part treatise on modern industrial agriculture and its discontents, part a reference manual on fresh fruits and vegetables, and part cookbook. Some of the information on farming will be old news to people who have read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and similar works, though there is some fascinating stuff about plant breeding and how new strains of strawberries and such are developed that was all new to me.

The discussions of how to pick good fruits and vegetables are good
Jun 19, 2016 Melissa rated it liked it
3.5 stars. There was a lot of interesting information in here about how the fruits and vegetables that we buy have been cultivated and bred over time, but I struggled with the format of the book. This is probably a book that is best if you do NOT read it straight through cover to cover. There are sections organized by season, and then each chapter within the season is dedicated to a different fruit or vegetable (or family of fruit/veg). It was just a lot of similar information to take in all at ...more
Mar 19, 2008 Rebekah rated it liked it
I enjoyed the author's sense of humor and writing style, as in this passage:

Choosing the right melon is one of the more confusing rites of summer--and you probably don't know the half of it. Some people say you should thump melons. Some say you should give them a sniff. Some claim the secret is all in the skin. Some tell you to play with their bellybuttons (the melons', not the people's). They're all right, and they're all wrong. It all depends on what kind of melon you're talking about (and, co
Aug 10, 2008 Shelah rated it liked it
Russ Parsons instructs the world on how to pick and store good produce. Then he gives some recipes for how to prepare it.

I've heard a ton of buzz about How to Pick a Peach over the last few months. I've heard Russ Parsons on the radio, railing against such hypocrisies as (gasp!) refrigerating tomatoes and potatoes! There was a lot of interesting stuff in How to Pick a Peach (particularly the chapter on the two peach growers who pick ripe, rather than rock-hard peaches and have cult following in
Mike Shultz
Dec 28, 2010 Mike Shultz rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Anyone sufficiently interested in food will enjoy the snapshot of commercial and scientific information about a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. For instance, I'm a happier person knowing that the revoltingly, shockingly astringent persimmon I once tried to eat was probably only a couple days away from being ripe and sweet; that portabello mushrooms are just overgrown brown button mushrooms that were initially considered a mistake; and that fruit growers pretty much can't worry about ...more
Feb 04, 2008 Hilary rated it it was amazing
The cover of this book caught my eye at the bookstore. I opened it to a random page and read for 15 glorious minutes. This book is a resource everyone should have. It contains everything you need to know about a large number of fruits and vegetables. Parsons organizes the foods according to the season in which they ripen. He explains how the foods are grown, how they make it to your grocery store or farmer's market, how they should be selected, stored and then prepared. He provides a handful of ...more
Feb 27, 2009 Djrmel rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A fact filled skim of where and when our fruits and vegies are at their best, along with some classic recipes for showing off the flavors. As we become more aware of the high price of eating healthy (environmentally and economically), it only makes sense to try to get the most for your dollar and your carbon footprint. Unfortunately, Parsons just scratches the surface on all the types of food that fill the produce department and farmers markets in this country, perhaps because there's no ...more
Sep 24, 2008 James rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to James by: Elana
Written much more with the produce consumer in mind, it's useful as advertised (will certainly teach you how to pick a peach). I was hoping for a little more on the agricultural side, but what did I expect from a food critic.

This book should be required reading in high school home ec. classes for lessons on how your food actually gets to your table, as well as produce selection and storage. Unfortunately, tends to read like said textbook for others who may already know much of its lessons.

Vilmos Kondor
Aug 01, 2014 Vilmos Kondor rated it it was amazing
I can't tell how much I enjoyed this book. I never read culinary books - except for the odd one in Hungarian - but I love fruits and vegetables and this book gave me so much useful information. I know how to cook but never really understood how to, well... pick a peach, for example. Or how to store tomatoes. Or peppers. Or how to cook cauliflower. I could go on but I won't since this book is about this.

This is is a fantastic, useful and pretty clever book. No wonder since Mr. Parson clearly lov
Jul 30, 2013 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Sarah by: Julie D.
Shelves: favorites
Parsons’s book caught my attention right off the bat - I don’t live in peach country, and I don’t buy them much at the store (the disappointment just isn’t worth it...they’re mealy and tasteless and hard little buggers every time I’ve tried). But the thought of searching for flavor...that was something I could get my hands around.

Oh yeah, and he used the word “farm.” Not just in the cutesy sense, either, but with a feeling of actually having been on a farm. (Different farms than the sort I’m fam
Dec 17, 2009 Jean rated it really liked it
Never did finish the book, though I am contemplating buying a copy myself. The copy that I had to read was borrowed from a co-worker, and I gave it back because it was just taking too much time for me to read through it all. The book is divided into seasons, and then within the season, the type of fruits or vegetables that are available during that particular season. There are also simple recipes after each vegetation, and they're all simple and are to be made with farmer-fresh produce. Great ...more
Nov 14, 2008 Laura rated it really liked it
This book takes a look at what has happened to our commercially grown produce over the last 50 years and attempts to discover why so much produce at the grocery store is tasteless and unpleasant compared to home grown. Fascinating. Each chapter is about a different food and he does a good job of describing the breeding progression that got us to where we are today but I felt like he was a little biased toward California (where he lives). I also would have liked to see more about how to choose ...more
May 19, 2013 Aspasia rated it really liked it
Part vegetable/fruit primer, part cookbook, Russ Parsons discusses (very briefly) the growing history of the most popular fruits and vegetables in the United States. The book is divided seasonally with recipes and food history for the vegetable or fruit that is harvested in that particular season. Parsons' focus in this book is flavor; he doesn't get preachy about organics, the environment or vegetarianism, so this might be the right book for someone who is interested in eating healthier but ...more
Jun 09, 2008 Stuart rated it really liked it
Recommended to Stuart by: Rebecca
When California peaches from the local organic store aren't fit to eat, there must be a reason, right? Well, now I know why, and it's not "just eat local, stupid". I'm pretty good at pickn 'em, most times, but the back stories here for why they give me one variety over another, why they give me bad stuff, where the really good stuff originated -- it's all in here, though if you're from California you probably already know all this stuff, right? Everybody else should read this book again every ...more
Anne Holcomb
Aug 01, 2007 Anne Holcomb rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, food
Food writer Parsons gives readers a perfect guide to picking the most delicious summer produce. Not only that, he also gives us essays on factory-farming and its impact on the quality of produce you find in the supermarket. And, to top it all off, he includes some of the most delicious recipes you’ll see this summer. “How to Pick a Peach” takes readers on a tour of the fruits and vegetables harvested in each season. The book is great for browsing — each vegetable and fruit has its own chapter ...more
May 22, 2009 Kerry rated it liked it
I like reading about produce and found some of the information about growing locations, seasons and varieties interesting. This practical guide is too big to be a handy reference and doesn't quite have as much information in it than I would like for this. I have to admit, I am a little negative because I tried one of the recipes and it was a disaster. I normally cook a good amount and I just found the artichoke lemon soup to be awful. I didn't trust the other recipes after that and lost some of ...more
Dec 10, 2010 Bubba61909 rated it liked it
i read this book going in with an open mind. the book basically said what i hope most of America is thinking about our produce. i like the way he gives a background on the farming in America. if you have a garden and are into growing your own produce then this book is right up your alley. the book explains what has happened to our produce market. how fruits and veggies just don't have quality anymore. the other great thing is the recipes in the book. i liked them a lot. i hope this will help ...more
Sep 10, 2013 Paa rated it really liked it
This is a book about fruits and vegetables. How do you ripe a ripe fruit? How do you you help to ripen fruit? What fruits will ripen after picking and what do not? Few people know much about fruit and vegetables. I bought the book eight years ago, thumbed through it, but only started to read it after I took a part time job as a produce clerk at The Fresh Market. It has been an amazing resource for me and my customers have benefited. A great book for the right person!
Jess gnaw
Dec 16, 2009 Jess gnaw added it
Shelves: nextup
i got this in the mail today as part of my kcrw angels membership. i think this is the 4th book I get and I am glad it's not another typical cookbook. The first was a chocolate/vanilla bakery goods book of things I would never make. The second was for tartine, one of the best barkeries I've ever been to, except their recipes are complicated as hell. And the last one is a tapas cookbook which is actually interesting.
Jun 16, 2008 Emily rated it liked it
Shelves: foodie-reads
Details the conflict of interest between farmers, agri-business, and consumers. If it looks pretty (yet tastes like crap), it will sell and that's all that matters. Also has helpful information on "picking a peach" and many other fruits & veggies (red on a peach doesn't mean it's more ripe!). My favorite fruit is watermelon, which can be hit or miss re: sweetness and flavor. There is useful info in here.
Aug 24, 2008 Linda rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Judy A.
Recommended to Linda by: Tammy
A great reference covering many (not all) types of fruits and vegetables, organized by the four seasons. Each item has a brief (sometimes not-so-brief) overview of its history and uses, and then tips on how to buy, store and use produce to celebrate its best. Got this from the library, but plan to purchase it soon ... But first must go eat my corn within its first 24 hours, because it will lose 50 percent of its sweetness by tomorrow ...
Dec 28, 2008 Linn rated it really liked it
I appreciated the organization of the book into seasons and the fruits/ veggies of each. It allowed me to understand the origins of food and to select those that are grown locally and in-season, I have even less of a reason to choose foods that contribute to global-warming. Additionally, it gives important tips as to how to prepare foods I've never made. I now keep the book w/ my cookbooks for easy reference!
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