|June Pride Peaches: Bird Back 40|
What does a fruit lover do when a certain overloaded peach tree called the June Pride deliver a sudden whopper of ripe peaches? Two weeks earlier than normal?
Answer: A fruit lover finds 101 ways and more to enjoy peaches. From freshly sliced peaches in the morning to peach cobbler at night -- life is all about stripping that tree in the Bird Back 40 and enjoying the gift that Mother Nature has delivered. And this year -- nature delivered a fat harvest -- as in the largest ever.
|Fat Harvest City|
I'm talking about a harvest that is so large that there's no need to cover the tree in netting this year. Those marauding fruit thieves known as the mockingbirds can have their fill and more. There's plenty underneath the canopy for my needs and the needs of other fruit lovers. Plus -- Bandi can help herself to that fruit on the lower branches. Everyone gets a treat this year.
And what a treat this June Pride season was. And still is. Believe it or not -- some of those peaches still aren't quite soft enough to pull off the tree. I'm one of those "no peach will be picked before its time," kinda people. Picking a peach while it's still as hard as a rock, before it's been given a chance to fully tree ripen, is a criminal act in my book.
|June Pride Snacks|
Not everyone subscribes to this theory, mind you. But in my humble opinion, there's nothing quite like a peach that's been allowed to ripen on a tree.
Planted during the 2008 bare root season in tandem with the O'Henry Peach variety, the June Pride finally got comfortable with its Bird Back 40 surroundings last year and nearly doubled in size. This is one of the few fruit trees that I don't need to prune much because I gave it a lot of space to grow. And grow it has. Most of last year's growth took place after the main harvest in early July, and I'm hopeful for the same kind of output this year.
Once you've had one whopper harvest? You'll always want another. And another. And another. Because I'm greedy like that. I have a love for summertime peaches fresh off the tree. The seeds of this love were planted by my father and brother many moons ago in Modesto, when my father acquired two peach trees from a grove that would be bulldozed to the ground to make way for new housing.
|Peaches Don't Come From a Can|
Those mature peach trees would help feed a family of four kids after dad took off in 1967 and eventually died in 1973. Food was a little hard to come by during the lean years so when fresh peach season hit? It was "Game On" for the Bird family. Fresh peach pie, peach cobbler, peaches with cream, peaches with milk and sugar, it was all on the menu. Peaches that fell off the tree were rescued and saved. Even the peaches with worm holes were a welcome treat -- as long as you avoided that worm.
Who knows? I probably consumed a worm or two back in the day. Call it "extra protein." Growing boys need that.
|Peach Ice Cream Anyone?|
I am reminded of those youthful beginnings every morning and evening when I check for fresh peaches. Every peach gets a squeeze or two until I've harvested more than enough for what I need. For the peach ice cream? Six quarts of this 4th of July creation, a combination of Paula Deen and Ben and Jerry's recipes, would require about four cups of peeled, ripe peaches. A food processor took care of the rest and the end result of that gooey goodness was dumped into the ice cream maker halfway through the churning process?
End result? Lip smacking peach ice cream!
Despite my love affair with all things peaches -- the June Pride peach isn't the best peach on the planet. It's not nearly as sweet nor as scrumptious as the Elberta peach varieties. It wouldn't last long in a taste test against the O'Henry. But, I can tell you this much: The June Pride is one of the best tasting peaches to ripen this early in the season. There was a time when people were forced to wait until late July or even August to satisfy that fresh peach desire.
But thanks to the efforts of modern day horticulture? That wait is over. New peach selections will ripen as early as May or as late as October, extending the peach harvest season.
That's a lot of peach pie. Happy picking!