By Chris Mittelstaedt
At this time of year new varieties of peaches come in and out of harvest each week, evolving from early June tartness to the cinnamony-sweet notes of late August. As I track the progression of summer through its changing taste I find memories of taste and place being triggered.
The summer I turned thirteen I tasted raw sugar cane for the first time. We drove through thick and humid July air from New Orleans across Lake Pontchatrain to the small farm of my great grandparents, the Magees, who had raised cows, chickens, and vegetables on a plot of land near Franklinton along the Bogue Chitto River.
My aunt was living near the rain-rotted farmhouse in a trailer that backed up against the woods. She had hired a bulldozer to open a trail through the moss-hung forest down to the river. She carried a shotgun to kill the snakes - Cottonmouths and Water Moccasins - that lay hidden among the bogs and Cyprus knees. My sister Jennifer and I named parts of the trail. There was Ant Hill where stinging ants industriously pushed brick-red soil into volcano-cones that popped up in a surreal Dr. Seuss village along the side of the steep trail. There was Elephant Ear Run where docile, gigantic leaves swayed with leathery sounds in the breeze that blew up from the shadowed wood. There was Banana Spider Bridge, a dirt trail that extended out across the swampy swill that seeped in from the river. It was lined with trees filled with the huge webs of black and yellow spiders.
Of course we went back to visit the farm again but the trail down to the river was never the same. The woods had over grown here and there and the river had bent and flooded and changed the landscape forever. You can't walk the exact path of your youth just as you can't eat the same peach twice.
Peaches are singular and able to leave a unique mark on your palate (and memory) that, due to weather and harvest conditions, may never again grace your mouth in the same way. For example, this week on the West Coast, we have Zee Lady yellow peaches in our Harvest and Staples cases. These come from B&L Farms in Kingsburg, CA. On the East Coast, some local varieties include Snow Prince white peaches from Beechwood Orchards in Biglerville, PA, and Blazing Star yellow peaches from Three Springs Orchards in Aspers, PA. I encourage you to try to notice the taste changes week by week as we bring in new varieties. To learn more, visit our Mix pages at fruitguys.com/mix to see what’s in your case.
Enjoy and be fruitful!