|Photograph courtesy of the |
Ohio Department of Agriculture
From California’s Central Valley, up the coast into Washington, across the Great Lakes and throughout New York and New England, it’s now relatively easy to find a peach that is ripening naturally. This is in delicious contrast to those months when retailers set out peaches that are hard, sour and green - - and then rot in seemingly hours or minutes.
Of local peaches, Mark Gade, at Gade Farm Store near our home, said, “There is nothing like the taste of a fresh peach in season.” Mark gets local peaches from Klein’s Kill Fruit Farms in southern Columbia County, in the Hudson valley.
|Peaches at Gade Farm|
Worldatlas, an online atlas, shows that China is the world’s largest peach producer, growing over 14.2 million tons of them in 2017. Spain was the second most prolific peach producer that year, growing nearly 1.8 million tons. The United States follows China, Spain, Italy and Greece with a nationwide crop of over 750,000 tons.
The ton is a major measure of peach output. This is paradoxical.
Eating a peach is such an individual, intimate experience. Each has a snowflake-like individuality in its coloring. Even two ripe peaches can taste just a little differently or have a slightly different firmness or juiciness. A “ton” is an industrial measure, more appropriate to cars or steel mills.
|These two peaches weigh one pound. If a ton is |
2,000 pounds, how many of this size peach are in a ton?
But by what Bertie Wooster might call their peachiness, peaches subvert this measure. Bill Shane, a Michigan State University researcher and peach specialist, advises “there is not a firm number for how many peaches are in a ton. The number varies based on size and size varies by peach variety, crop load, time of year and growing conditions.”
Summer peaches from local orchards have an intense flavor. At the same time, their fruit and flesh are more delicate than apples or oranges.
The delicateness of a peach suggests that special growing conditions are required so that you can bite into a perfect peach on a warm summer day.
|Photo courtesy of Jim Bittner|
Thanks to Jim Bittner of Bittner Singer Orchards in Niagara County, New York, Bill Shane and my friend Bob LaRoche, I now better understand the delicate, balanced dance required to put that marvelous peach into your hands this month. In an email, Jim wrote, “Peaches cannot be grown where temperatures get below zero degrees Fahrenheit very often.” “Temperatures of 5 below,” he continued “will start killing next year’s flower buds; temperatures of 15 below will kill the tree.” Jim’s orchards, he writes, “are protected by open water all winter” on Lake Ontario.
|Peach trees in bloom at Bittner-Singer Orchards. |
Photo courtesy of Jim Bittner
“Air drainage,” can allow people to grow peaches in cooler regions, away from large water bodies because - - at least on still nights - - warmer air is at the top of hills. Bob explained that air drainage is key to peach production in southern states. Bill said that in Michigan, it is possible to grow peaches in the vicinity of Grand Rapids, many miles from Lake Michigan, because air drainage provides good growing conditions on ridges, the so-called Peach Ridge growing area.
Once an orchardist determines if the temperatures are right , that peach is still not in your hands. Bob grows peaches in Maine; if frost comes too early or before harvest, he loses the crop.
My friend Joe Freda lives in the southern Catskills and wrote the following about another peach growing peril:
“We had a bumper crop this year. The peaches were so sweet we had them every morning for breakfast. In previous years the squirrels and crows got them before we did. This year we took pre-emptive action: started harvesting as soon as they looked good, at the end of July. We’ve been so pleased with them. Elise (Joe’s wife) was eager to harvest the rest of them, and I’d been waiting for the last full-growth day. A risk, a game of poker with the crows. Elise ate the last harvested peach for breakfast this morning, and asked me to go get the rest.
“As I walked up to the orchard, I could hear crows laughing at me: “Haw! Haw! Haw!” And when I got to the peach trees, there wasn’t a single fruit left! Those little suckers got me again, and they broke a couple of limbs in the process. Oh well, crows gotta live, too. And if they can dine on peaches as sweet as these, I’m sure we’ll be in competition for quite some time.
Marc Fuchs, a professor at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in New York’s Finger Lakes, advises that, in addition to Niagara County and other counties on Lake Ontario, Columbia, Dutchess and Suffolk Counties are big peach producing counties. For as long as possible, I plan to chase fresh local peaches - - before the frost lowers the boom.
|You're right! It's not a peach.|
But this sunflower was so beautiful
I had to share it.