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Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Peach

Consider the peach.

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This wonderful fruit, first cultivated in northwestern China around 2,000 BC, is such a delightful part of summer. I love fresh peaches. The old, gnarled peach tree in my California yard treated me to a bounty of fresh, juicy fruit each August. These weren't the hard, tasteless peaches found in most grocery stores. They were large, sweet and picked at the peak of ripeness, unlike the rock-hard peaches sold in most grocery stores. And they were organic peaches, grown in my own yard.

Of course, neighborhood squirrels helped themselves to the bounty, often taking a single bite from a peach and then moving on to another. But there was always enough to go around. I loved to pick a couple of peaches, wash off the fuzz, and enjoy the still-warm sweetness. They also made lovely peach cobblers.

For me, peaches personify summer, with their yellow flesh and pink/orange skins. Tasting and smelling a good peach always takes me back to childhood visits to my grandparents in southern Illinois, where peach orchards abounded. My family would buy bushel baskets of fresh, sweet peaches, which my mother and grandmother would can for consumption later in the year.

Today's store-bought canned peaches are a poor substitute for the real thing. They are pre-sliced, have no skins and usually come packed in a sickly sweet syrup. The smell, taste and feel of the luscious fruit are missing. The sensation of biting into a fresh, ripe peach and feeling the juice dribble down my chin is lacking.

I love summer fruits, especially ripe blackberries and fat strawberries. But for all-around goodness and eating pleasure, nothing beats a fresh peach. I planted a peach tree in my back yard last year. It is doing well despite the harsh climate of central New Mexico. And I really look forward to the time it begins to bestow some of its plump, juicy peaches on me.