Thursday, August 9

Life’s a Peach and then you Die

It’s raining peaches, nectarines and plums in the Valley right now. Yellow peaches with firm, golden insides that are juicy, called Baby Crawfords. Mariposa Plum, Heavenly White Nectarine, Green Gage Plum, Gold Dust Peach, Speckled Egg Nectarine. These are just a few I learned about (and some I tasted!) at Andy’s Orchard Rare fruit grower and preserver of over 200 varieties, Andy Mariani, collects rare varieties and has saved many heirlooms from extinction.

Most of us have only seen a single species in the grocery stores. You see, the heirloom varieties don’t ship well and they don’t always “look” like that rosy red and orange peach color that consumers think taste good, so if a grower wants to sell his peaches, he will go with a peach that can stand up to the beating of being shipped and still “look” good. They will also pick these peaches before they’re even ripe. Hey, if they’re hard, they’ll ship better.

Unfortunately, once a peach is picked it will not ripen any further and never develop another drop of sweetness. Of course these don’t taste anything near as delicious or unforgettable as a heritage peach. Next time you buy a peach in the store, look at the stem. If it’s green, they picked it underipe.

Well, I had the great pleasure last week of visiting Andy’s Orchard and tasting 80+ succulent, juicy peaches, nectarines and plums. I went down with the Bakers Dozen group and Andy rolled out the red carpet with over 80 heirloom varietals cut up and labeled there for us to taste and learn more about. They even served peach cobbler! We were gorged with stone fruit as we descended upon the orchard where Andy talked to us a little about fruit farming and allowed us to pick!

All this time I thought a nectarine was some kind of a peach-tangerine cross or something. All a nectarine is, is a peach without the fuzz! Only one gene difference between them. He told us about a peacotum (apricot-peach-plum mix)! He showed us that all you should do when picking a peach is to gently cradle it. If it drops in your hand, it’s ripe and should be picked. If not, leave it until it’s ready.

Andy does not sell underipe fruit and because he is getting a reputation for such fine fruit, and consumers are beginning to catch onto this buy local = quality thing, he is now shipping boxes of his dazzling fruit out to some choice markets.

He told us a story about an heirloom variety known as the Dinosaur Egg. It had a happy reputation as a very delicious variety and the farm was beginning to get known for it’s famous plum, which is a good thing when a farmer can make a living. Unfortunately a marketing company decided this was a terrific name, patented it and began labeling inferior plums (but ones that had the same interesting “egg” look of mottled skin and solid fruit inside) as Dinosaur Eggs. The farm was prohibited from ever using the name again. Greediness is sickening, isn’t it? These kinds of stories make me so sad. But then I see how well Andy’s Farm is doing, how committed they are to quality and goodness, and I see Good overpowering the Bad.

It’s like the seasons. Now we have so much fruit, tomatoes and fresh veggies, it’s like a cornucopia! Then the season will change and the last peach will fall from the tree. The peach will rot and feed the soil, which will feed the tree for next summer’s delicious fruits. Nothing ever dies, really, it just recycles. Compost the bad to feed the good. Now, Go eat a Peach!

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