Dripping with Juice
We recently had several families come and pick their own fruit. One group was visiting from the San Jose, CA area. This group consisted of two families with a total of five children. The other group also had two families with three children among them. One of these families was moving to Colorado from Hawaii and using the travel time to sight-see. They found us online http://www.naylorsorganicfarmstay.com. I always offer samples of the fruit visitors are about to pick. Golden Sweet apricots and Black Splendor plums were the offerings that day. A 10-year-old girl from Hawaii tasted the plum and immediately said, “That was amazing!” The samples disappeared quickly.
Why is the Dirt so Sandy?
People want to know how we grow such luscious fruit, so we offer farm tours. Mike loves sharing about what he does and answering people’s questions. One person asked why our dirt was so sandy. “You’re not near an ocean,” she declared. Mike explained that there are different types of soil. Ours is called “sandy loam.” One parent noticed the different leaves, e.g. plum, peach, apricot, nectarine. She gathered some leaves and tested Mike. He even got the peach and nectarine leaves correct, not easy to do. “Is your water expensive?” “How come you dozed those trees?” “Why do you call this a cling?” “Are these good for baking or canning?” Etc. ….
The majority of people in the U.S. are three generations away from the farm. Mas Masumoto, fellow family farmer and author, writes about how many people have no idea how delicious peaches can taste. They have no memory of biting into a juicy, sweet piece of fruit just picked from the tree. Farmers and those who have access to truly tree-ripened fruit take flavor for granted. We are trying to remedy that with our new U-pick venture.
We are thinking about planting some of the old varieties of peaches that were best for baking and canning. The Coronet was one of those. Mike’s mom would take bushels of peaches to the local cannery where they would pack them in cans and seal them for her to bring home to the family. I remember her serving a half peach floating in its own syrupy juices to everyone at the table for dessert. My mouth IS watering as I type. Mike has been looking for a nursery that still carries the Coronet peach. So far he has not been able to find it. Mas explains why the older varieties are so hard to find in his book, Epitaph for a Peach:
I’m told these peaches have a problem. When ripe, they turn an amber gold rather than the lipstick red that seduces the public. Every year the fruit brokers advise me to get rid of those old Sun Crests. “Better peaches have come along,” they assure me. “Peaches that are fuller in color and can last for weeks in storage.”
Many of the older varieties did not have the rosy blush that customers look for in a peach, but they DID have good flavor and the freestone (see photo) peaches had the firmness needed for making pies and canning.
Where to Find a Good Peach
Of course, farmer’s markets are one place. Supermarkets are responsive to their customers (or they should be). Ask to speak to your grocery store’s produce manager. Ask him or her where the peaches were grown (if it’s not on the sticker). The closer to the store location is usually a good indicator of how long the fruit had to travel and, therefore, how recently it was picked. You can also ask for the freshest fruit available. There may be fruit that has just arrived and is not on the shelves, yet. Ask when they usually get their shipments and plan to shop on those days. Color is a good indicator of ripeness with most varieties today. Look for consistent color on all sides of the fruit (this also may vary with variety). The smell test usually works, too. Always check the stem area on nectarines. The skin should be yellow for yellow nectarines and white for white ones with no green. The squeeze test is the last resort because it bruises the fruit and some varieties of peaches taste better firm than soft, so squeezing is not helpful. Also, placing firm fruit in a paper bag to ripen may work for some varieties, but not for others. If the fruit was picked too green, the flavor will improve little, if at all, by placing it in a paper bag or letting it sit on the windowsill for a few days.
Thanks for reading and let me know if you eat any fruit this summer that tastes “amazing.”