Peaches. Peaches. More Peaches. Surprisingly, our first crop hasn’t been grapes; this is the first year we’ll get usable grapes although we will have to drop fifty percent of them and for the rest, I’m warned, the juice will still be thin. No, our first crop has been peaches. Specifically, heirloom white peaches.
Imagine our surprise when one of the spindly little baby trees in our nascent orchard suddenly appeared bowed down with fruit. We rejoiced for about an hour, until we cross-referenced peaches in our three organic gardeners handbooks. Seems we had a bumper crop because we neglected to thin the “fruitlets” when they were about the size of marbles. So now our little peach tree is suffering as if it were a 5 foot woman who suddenly gained a hundred pounds. She’s achy, she’s stooped and she’s complaining incessantly about her knees.
While struggling with the peach harvest, I’m noticing the pluots are threatening
ripitude and screaming “Pick Me”.
It also seems we’ve sacrificed quality (if you are defining peach quality by size) for quantity. Although these peaches are amazing. Juicier and more peachy without the cloying aftertaste of the usual supermarket peach which tends to find its way into cans and heavy syrup.
Further research told me that our white peaches are an heirloom breed because they aren’t one of the “good travelers” that supermarkets and agribusiness love to standardize on.
Our pluots (cross between a plum and an apricot) up close and personal.
True to the warning, our peaches are the most delicate of “poor travelers”. Think of the kid with glasses who always threw up on the school bus and had such a delicate constitution that if someone coughed on him, he could develop double pneumonia between boarding the bus and arriving at school.
Our peaches are so delicate they bruise if I look at them too closely. And they faint dead away from the vapors if kept more than a day.
Meanwhile, back at the kitchen garden, our tomaters have one tiny little fruit.
That’s okay, don’t ripen until I’ve got the pluots and nectarines under control. PLEASE.
So that’s led me to harvesting what’s ripe every few days. Then eating them immediately. Since there are only so many peaches you can eat in a 24 hour period, I’ve started recruiting volunteers for peach delivery. And, too late for peach overload, I found out I can halve, stone and freeze them in small Zip Loc baggies.
And then there’s the nectarines!
Today was the last of my peach harvests this week. I carefully picked the rest of the crop, gently laid them in my free trade African grass basket (because I’m that PC) and left Sonoma immediately to make my deliveries. I even strapped the basket in to avoid the bruises I got on the last crop when I had to make a sudden stop.
Seems the melons and cucumbers are locked in a death struggle.
Note to self: don’t plant two vines in one small raised bed. Doh!
Didn’t matter. By the time I reached my first recipient, they were already starting to bruise. I left a note advising their immediate consumption in smoothies and headed for home.
Tonight we have friends over for a Peach Dinner Extravaganza. And they won’t escape without a basket of peaches foisted upon them. I’ll weaken their resistance with Bellinis first.
I’m seeing a pressure canner and several packets of Zip Loc bags in my near future. This pick and gorge cycle isn’t really working for us.
Grandpa Joad in The Grapes of Wrath always said the first thing he wanted to do upon reaching California was run up to a peach tree and smash a fistful of peaches on his face. Wonder if he’d be that enthusiastic about them after picking them in the hot sun.
One result: I managed to put together a Peach Pickin’ iPod Playlist. Who knew there were so many songs with mentions of peaches in them? Some highlights:
Because when you are spending your week harvesting peaches, there’s nothing like a migrant worker song from the Great Depression to really put you in the mood.
“Sometimes the peaches get rotten
And falls down on the ground
There’s a hungry mouth for ev’ry peach
As I go ramblin’ round boys, as I go ramblin’ round.
The Presidents of the United States of America
“Movin’ to the country
Gonna eat a lot of peaches”
“Walkin’ on the beaches
Lookin’ at the peaches”
Not really about fruit, but whenever the chance comes to include a Stranglers song, well, it’s got to be done.
Billy Lee Riley
After harvesting under the broiling Sonoma sun, I could really relate to a song about working on a chain gang at Mississippi’s most infamous prison farm. And this version by a rock-a-billy contemporary of Elvis is the best.
Steve Miller Band
Again, not really about fruit, I’m guessing, but does include the immortal line:
“I really love your peaches
Want to shake your tree”
Anyone have any other suggestions?
NOTE: All Peaches & Herb songs are automatically disqualified.