Monday, July 02, 2012


Fresh from the tree

What’s better than a ripe peach picked right from the tree? Not much, at least in my opinion.

Years ago, Hero and I bought a small acreage that included a peach orchard. We planted more trees until we had hundreds.  No, more than that, we had over a thousand. Hero had always thought that when he retired, he would like to raise fruits and vegetables for fun and profit. Our daughters wanted horses, so we bought this land with both pasture and fruit trees that were mostly peaches. If you’ve ever seen a Chevy Chase movie, you’ll have an idea of our naiveté.

Yes, we were disaster waiting to happen. However, Hero is very good at whatever he sets his mind to accomplish, and we had great fruit and vegetables. We love peaches, and added some apple and plum trees and a couple of pomegranates. Grape vines grew in several places to round out our variety.

But, there was trouble in paradise. One spring, a tornado came through and upended over a hundred of our very best trees, and barely missed our house. We tried staking up eighty of the victims, but they never recovered. Neither did Hero, poor dear. He took that tornado personally!

We worked those peaches weekends and days off until we were able to build our home here. Then we were able to have a huge garden of spinach, black-eyed peas, green beans, onions, watermelons, cucumbers, and cantaloupe and a few tomatoes and peppers. We were rocking along pretty well. I canned fruits and vegetables and filled our freezer as if stocking up for Armageddon. I love canning except for one thing. If you have an important event you absolutely need to attend, you can guarantee that’s the day the produce will be at the perfect stage to harvest and process. Every time!

Peaches at market means hard work
All the inconvenience is justified later. Nothing is nicer on a wintry day than to open your pantry and take out vegetables that you have canned. If processed properly, home canned foods taste very different from commercially canned foods. In my opinion (pardon me while I pat myself on the back), my home canned and frozen foods are far superior in taste and nutrition. Hero bought a cider press and we juiced our apples. We were in business!

Being canned does not protect the food from spoilage, which happens mainly from four causes. One is that the food was not processed according to guidelines for that specific fruit or vegetable. A second is if the jars are not absolutely clean and sterilized from any residual bacteria and kept clean during filling. Third, if the canned foods get too hot while stored they are ruined. You can understand why people used to keep their filled jars in the cellar. Fourth, is that the lids were not sealed well at canning.

One of my blue ribbons
for peach jam
Peach jam is one of my specialties. Many times I won a blue ribbon at the State Fair of Texas, as well as for mustang grape jelly and for Blue Lake green beans. I love making jam and jelly, except for one kind: pomegranate.In my opinion, nothing in the world is stickier or stains worse than pomegranate juice. Don’t ask me how I know , but suffice it to say Hero and I mopped the kitchen five times and our shoes still made that sucking noise when we walked across the kitchen floor. And before you ask, yes, we did clean the bottoms of our shoes. Even though we’ve never again juiced our pomegranates, I confess that the juice is wonderful and the jelly was the best ever. Frozen into those old-type ice cube trays, a couple of cubes of pomegranate juice dropped into a Sprite or 7-Up makes a terrific personal size instant punch.

Eventually, Hero realized that when he retired, he would not want to work as hard as required to operate an orchard and truck farm. (For you city folks, a truck farm is what you call a garden large enough to sell your fruits and vegetables by trucking it to market.) After all, farming is hard work and retired is retired, right?  We sold all but five-and-a-half acres to the two neighbors whose land adjoins ours, one of whom already used our pasture. Both buyers took out the peach trees to have more grazing for their cattle. We still have a dozen peach trees, and that’s enough for us. And their fruit is ripe now. Yum! Did I make you hungry for a fresh peach? Or how about a dish of warm peach cobbler with a dollop of ice cream on top? Oh, no, I've made myself hungry. Guess I'll go have another fresh peach.

Thanks for stopping by!

1 comment:

Ruby said...

Okay Caroline. Where is the recipe for this peach jam? I'll share my peach scone recipe. I love peaches in anything from salsa to ice cream.