'Tis the time...
Seasonal Orchard Musings by Chris Negronida
West Haven organic orchard manager, Black Diamond orchard/cider assistant and FLCH Friday and Sunday bartender
Peaches are the nectar that drips from the thick rich days of late summer. As I write this I am swimming in that nectar. I have spent several days this past week picking peaches and the experience has been gastronomically rewarding and sublime. Years ago when picking peaches for the first time I discovered the act is much different from that of harvesting apples. Due to the delicate nature of the fruit, peaches must be picked slowly with a more gentle touch that allows the process to feel almost meditative. I started out picking some very ripe peaches, the flesh of which felt as if it could give in to the slightest pressure. I picked only two or three before placing them into a flat lined with paper bags. As I encountered slightly firmer fruit, I took small handfuls, balancing them in my open palm.
I've found that stepping on a fallen peach is a much different experience from stepping on a carpet of overripe apples. The squish one feels when stepping on a peach feels almost sacrilegious, even if the flesh is half rotten. Although some of the fallen fruit has been on the ground long enough to be discovered by the bees, some of the drops are fresh. Having not the heart to tread on such perfectly ripe fruit, I often venture onto my hands and knees before picking a tree, searching for the orange and golden orbs hidden in the tall grass. Sometimes returning home with more ripe peaches than I knew what to do with, I spend an evening cutting, skinning and freezing bags of peaches. And when all the work is done, I sit down with a bowl of peaches and heavy cream drizzled with honey. Although I have to say that I still prefer picking apples, picking peaches does have it's own charm. There are few things that compare to sitting on an empty crate, watching the sun sink low as the inevitable excess juice from a freshly fallen peach drips down your chin.