Flat or tiny, they're in the best shape

Peak season

Saturn peaches: Whether you call them Saturn, Donut, bagel, saucer or peento, demand for these flat peaches is going over the moon. A rarity not so long ago (only about 50 tons were sold in 1996), sales more than doubled between 2000 and 2005 to a whopping 4,000 tons. Why? Partly because they look so cute, of course. Beyond that, they are very sweet, nearly candy-like with low acidity and white melting flesh. Saturn peaches are descended from an old Chinese variety called peento or pan-tao (it translates rather prosaically as "flat peach"). There are also flat nectarines, though they are not yet as plentiful. Still to come are old-favorite varieties such as Elegant Lady and O'Henry, but this year -- with the difficult spring weather -- these low-chill, fast-ripening peaches are among the best bets in the early season.

Various vendors, $2 per pound.

Grape tomatoes: That same cool, wet spring weather has delayed the tomato harvest as well. Some heirlooms are starting to trickle into the market, but quality is still a little iffy. A much better bet is the grape tomato. These are tiny (even smaller than cherry tomatoes) and naturally high in sugar (up to twice as much as other tomatoes). As a result, they ripen more quickly, making them flavorful even in the face of the kinds of adversities we've had this year. These tomatoes come in a wide variety of colors -- red and gold, of course, but also green, white, pink and even purple. To make a quick just-back-from-the-market lunch, cut the tomatoes in quarters and put them in a serving bowl with a little minced garlic, a bit of olive oil and just a splash of red wine vinegar. Season until sharp with salt and black pepper and then toss some freshly cooked spaghetti on top. Give it a second to warm through, then stir to combine. That should hold you until tomato season really gets going in a couple of weeks.

Various vendors, $1.50 to $2 per pint.

-- Russ Parsons

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