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Peach picking: a sentimental journey

Next Saturday morning, instead of working out with a butt-kicking trainer who is mercifully away on vacation, we’ll be heading down the highway to a place of legend: the southern Ontario fruit farm where my husband briefly lived in his teens. This time of year, he’d often stand under a likely-looking peach tree, extend his arm into the branches and let a perfectly sun-ripened peach drop into his waiting hand. Because I haven’t been blessed with this experience, I don’t know the glory of a peach—or so he has always maintained.

I wouldn’t dream of offering supermarket peaches, with their seductive hue and whiff of cold storage, to such a connoisseur. But once in a while I’ve been unable to resist the sun-warmed peaches at a neighbourhood market well known for the quality of its produce and the vigilance of its owner, who protects his wares the way mothers protect their young. While he’s not looking, I hold one delicate pinky-gold peach under my nose and inhale the scent of late summer. Surely I’ve found a worthy peach!

I hurry home right away before lesser errands can bruise my bounty. This is my husband’s verdict: “Pretty good, for a peach from a store.”

A few months ago at a family wedding, we reconnected with the woman who inherited the fruit farm from her parents. She’s not related to my husband but remembers him vividly. “When will this year’s peaches be ready?” I asked, already dreaming of a trip to the famous orchard. It was agreed that my husband would call in early August to identify the optimal weekend for peaches dropping into open palms.

And so we’re almost on our way. The farmer has some qualms about this: her orchard has been pelted by hail. The peaches are pitted and scarred, she warns. Are we sure we really want to come? Absolutely! Just as beautiful supermarket peaches can taste of cardboard, a roughed-up orchard peach still has all its aromatic juices.

There’s just one thing I have to figure out between now and next weekend. What will I do with all those perishable peaches? I have no talent for rolling out piecrust (speaking of cardboard), so peach pie is out. I’m on the hunt for a peachy treat I can’t bungle. All suggestions gratefully accepted.

 

Posted by Rona

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