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!

Ice Cream Rolls and the Glow of Louis Armstrong

Friends shakin’ hands sayin’ “how do you do” they’re really sayin’ I love you…

Wednesday evenings are becoming music night with a couple of my choir buddies. We listen to music together, sing a lot and share dinner. Today started like this:

1:30 a.m. Alarm goes off. I sleep walk to the dehydrator to turn it off so the cake for the ice cream rolls doesn’t get too dried out.
9:30 a.m. I’m up now and check the cake. Oops, it’s not dry at all, I turn the dehydrator back on. Thank God I have all day.
9:40 a.m. Power goes out.
9:50 a.m. Husband informs me that PG&E won’t have power back on until 11 a.m.
9:51 a.m. My internal alarm sounds as I realize I need to print 120 name badges and FedEx before 5 p.m. plus deal with last minute online registrations which I now can’t get because the power’s out. AND make two kinds of ice cream using an electric ice cream maker and put the dessert together requiring electric blenders in preparation of tonight.
9:59 a.m. I talk myself down from the roof and decide to do my usual trip to the Wednesday Farmer’s Market, followed by a hike up Sugar Loaf. Heck, by the time I return the power will be back on. I’ll have plenty of time. Life is good.
11:30 a.m. Huh, that’s funny, still no power. Husband informs me PG&E won’t have power back on until 2 p.m.
11:30:01 a.m. A panic attack sets in as I wonder how I will get everything done. Why does life have to be so difficult?
11:31 I switch into “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” mode. Yes, Deb is home, Yes, she has power. Off I go with my two dehydrator trays of soggy cake batter and the carmelized nuts to use Deb’s dehydrator. Backing out of the driveway the #$%&@ ! gate won’t open. Oh that’s right, it’s electronic, no power. I call my husband who opens it manually, but steps in dog shit so hops around on one foot to the hose. I appreciate the comedy relief.
11:33 I make mental note: husbands are handy even with dog shit caked on their shoe.
11:50 Put husband to work hooking up new computer monitor. Figure this is a good way to use dead time (I never have time to boss him around for stuff like this). I turn my compost pile. I check voicemail with my cell, since my phone system is out too. I’m not panicking, I’m NOT panicking.
1 p.m. I continue to develop different strategies on how I will get the name badges done by 5 if the power doesn’t come back on. I imagine hoofing my computer and ice cream maker to Deb’s. I make more business calls.
2:15 p.m. Power’s back on! Oh no, I forgot the cake at Deb’s. My God, I hope it’s not overcooked. I barrel out of the driveway and almost ram the gate down. Damn! It’s still manual because we didn’t plug it back in yet. I open it myself this time, careful not to step in any piles.
4:30 p.m. Husband says he is going downtown. Oh! I say, would you wait a few minutes for me to finish these tags so you can drop them at FedEx? He says yes. Mental note to self: Husbands are wonderful, especially with no trace of dog shit smell.
5 p.m. I’m in the kitchen ice-creaming up the Star Thistle Gelato and Chai Ice Cream.

Later that night…The dessert turns out beautifully and very delicious. I am proud. We sing and listen to a bunch of songs together and as we sing What a Wonderful World together I feel very peaceful and content after such a hectic day, and I say to myself, what a wonderful life.

(see comment for recipe)