Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Reverie on Peaches

"Redhaven", watercolor by Fran Hardy copyright
Private Collection

My sister, Joan Hardy wrote this about peaches  in an email to me so I decided to dedicate this blog post to her and how she has inspired me to wax eloquent about peaches.
"We've been having our delicious local fresh peaches at the Brookline farmers market.  My favorite summer food when they are just picked that morning.  God really outdid Herself when she created peaches, I think!"

As the days are growing shorter and summer is drawing to a close peaches are in their last glorious throes and they bring back many memories of summers past for me. When we lived on our farm in western Pennsylvania about twenty years ago I did this watercolor called "Redhaven" named after my favorite variety of peaches, grown by a neighbor, who had a wonderful hilltop orchard with spectacular views of the rolling country. He grew the best peaches I have ever tasted. I bought large quantities from him and we ate the juice dripping peaches to our heart's content. I also made peach pie and peach ice cream. What a mouth-watering culinary feast of summer's bounty. I noticed as Ron gently filled the baskets of peaches for me, how carefully he handled them. If peaches are not handled with care brown spots show up later as they are very delicate. His were always just ripe and smelled redolently of summer sun. If peaches don't have their sweet smell it is a warning that they will be mealy and tasteless. Ron's peaches were never that way. In a drought year they were so much smaller and I realized the importance of moisture in such a juicy fruit. But even then, Ron's peaches were the best I had ever tasted. One winter was exceptionally cold and many of the trees were damaged and Ron decided to cut down his peach orchard. That was so sad, but Ron had gotten married (which was not sad) and the peaches were so much work to grow, he no longer felt that he had the time. I will always remember those luscious peaches. We got some very good peaches at our local food coop and it brought back memories of those Redhavens and summers on our farm.

In the watercolor "Redhaven" , I really 'scrubbed' the heavy d'Arches watercolor paper when I was painting the peaches to give them that fuzzy peach skin effect. I love the deep shades of red, orange and yellow in a ripe redhaven peach. I have to agree with my sister, what amazing color and form that gives us a glimpse into what the experience of eating a peach can be. Who designed this marvel??????

The peach tree (Prunus persica) is a species of Prunus native to China that bears an edible juicy fruit called a peach.[1] It is a deciduous treegrowing to 4–10 m (13–33 ft) tall, belonging to the subfamily Prunoideae of the family Rosaceae. It is classified with the almond in the subgenus Amygdalus within the genus Prunus, distinguished from the other subgenera by the corrugated seed shell.
The leaves are lanceolate, 7–16 cm (2.8–6.3 in) long, 2–3 cm (0.79–1.2 in) broad, pinnately veined. The flowers are produced in early spring before the leaves; they are solitary or paired, 2.5–3 cm diameter, pink, with five petals. The fruit has yellow or whitish flesh, a delicate aroma, and a skin that is either velvety (peaches) or smooth (nectarines) in different cultivars. The flesh is very delicate and easily bruised in some cultivars, but is fairly firm in some commercial varieties, especially when green. The single, large seed is red-brown, oval shaped, approximately 1.3–2 cm long, and is surrounded by a wood-like husk. Peaches, along with cherriesplums and apricots, are stone fruits (drupes).
The scientific name persica, along with the word "peach" itself and its cognates in many European languages, derives from an early European belief that peaches were native to Persia (now Iran). The modern botanical consensus is that they originate in China, and were introduced to Persia and the Mediterranean region along the Silk Road before Christian times.[2] Cultivated peaches are divided into clingstones and freestones, depending on whether the flesh sticks to the stone or not; both can have either white or yellow flesh. Peaches with white flesh typically are very sweet with little acidity, while yellow-fleshed peaches typically have an acidic tang coupled with sweetness, though this also varies greatly. Both colours often have some red on their skin. Low-acid white-fleshed peaches are the most popular kinds in China, Japan, and neighbouring Asian countries, while Europeans and North Americans have historically favoured the acidic, yellow-fleshed kinds.

The red haven peach – the peach that all other peaches are judged against. In fact, other peach varieties are often listed by how many days before or after they are ready to pick in regards to when red havens are ready. Red havens are ready for picking around the end of July to beginning of August. This is the classic peach that you will find all over the place. It’s a heavy producer which farmers love. They also love it’s long shelf life. It’s the most popular peach planted in Michigan. It is a freestone peach, in that you should be able to remove the inner pit without taking half the peach with it.
The Red Haven was introduced in 1940. It was created by Dr. Stanley Johnston of Michigan State University. It was first grown in South Haven, Michigan. There is a park in South Haven that bears Stanley’s name. His “Haven” series of peaches had a major effect on the peachbusiness in the eastern part of the country.
Overall Feeling: Well not being my favorite peach (Flamin’ Fury is) this is still a top of the line peach. It is juicy with a good peach flavor. It’s a great peach for canning as they are easy to slice up and remove the stone. This peach also works well in cooking applications. It has the acidity that you want.

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