Best of Met
How often does a certain smell or taste take us happily hurtling towards nostalgia? It could be a special holiday recipe, or a dish grandma made just right. For Terry Halverson, founder of Metropolitan Market, it was those sweet Eastern Washington peaches, the ones so sweet and juicy that they would drip down your chin when bitten into.
“My family lived in Yakima when I was young, and we picked peaches for eating, jam, and canning. Mom made pies and we ate peaches for dessert often. They were as good as you could get,” says Halverson. “There was nothing like making a mess eating the fully loaded, juicy, aromatic peaches.”
But this was the tricky part; it was a peach that didn’t seem to exist in stores in the city. His mission was ambitious, but clear: recreating the peach-filled flavor of his childhood memories, and figuring out how to share it with others.
Find the Farmers
This started the quest for the perfect peach. Halverson partnered up with one of Metropolitan Market’s food consultants Jon Rowley, and the two of them set out to find the fruit. Season after season, orchard after orchard, the pair tasted hundreds of peaches across different states. Over time, two clear partners emerged: Pence Orchards in Yakima, Washington (now Lateral Roots Farm) and Frog Hollow Farms in Brentwood, California, and the collaboration began. But we can never say no to a good peach, which is why in 2020, we added one more farm to our Peach-O-Rama family: Douglas Fruit in Pasco, Washington.
So why was it so hard to find this ultimate peach in grocery stores in the city? Because it is such a fragile fruit, most peaches are picked before they are ripe and while they are still firm, decreasing the chances of the softer fruit bruising during shipping. Let’s be honest – nobody likes bruised peaches, but picking the peaches early doesn’t allow time for the fruit to develop its peak sugar content; the longer the peach is on the branch, the sweeter it gets. Halverson, Rowley, and the farmers had to brainstorm ways to leave the peaches on the branch longer, but without ruining the super delicate fruit in the shipping process.
After much brainstorming, they figured out a way to do it. By solving challenges around handling and transporting them, a peach so sweet, juicy, and full of well-balanced flavor became available in stores. The proof was in the brix! With a device called a refractometer, sugar content, or brix, was measurable. While most peaches available scored a brix level of anywhere from 8-10, these peaches were reading around 13 and above.
Starting the Peach-O-Rama Tradition
It was time to celebrate. Halverson introduced these peaches to the stores, and the tradition of Peach-O-Rama was born. Each July we bring in these ripe, ready-to-eat peaches, and Halverson’s childhood memory quickly turned into a widely anticipated summertime community tradition. With the help of the farmers, we welcome tons of varieties of these special peaches all season long, from Diamond Princess peaches to Elegant Ladies. Peach-O-Rama is more than twenty years old now, and people come in from all over to try these peaches. All peaches are inspected daily, checking ripeness, brix levels, and overall quality to ensure it meets nothing less than our standards. It’s a celebration felt not only in the produce departments, but also in our bakeries, our prepared foods, and throughout the rest of the stores. We invite you to celebrate with us, and to taste summer’s best peaches.
Peaches are amazing as they are, but if you want to try something new, we have you covered.