"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china." Charles Dickens

May 29, 2012

The Perfect Peach: a Cautionary Tale

There once was a beautiful, plump and perfect peach with just the right amount of blush and not too hard and not too soft. Its skin had an unmatched smoothness and it was the only peach I could reach on our only tree that has bore fruit for the past several years since we've lived here, but never this early in the season (late May: unheard of for Kentucky peaches). Last year we picked too late and two limbs broke from the weight of them. Another year our neighbor was able to pick them while we spent our last summer in New Hampshire: he canned them and said they were picked at just the right time. Every year, I thank Miss Lillian for planting the tree so many years ago.

As I admired the fruit my brief thought was "Oh, the worms haven't found them yet!" I held the large peach and admired it before taking my first bite, savoring it as slowly as I could while the nectar ran down my chin and onto my hands. Never was anything more delicious or infused with everything natural: the warmth of an early Kentucky spring and summer, the country air, the good earth––and no pesticides! There were so many more peaches hanging above me but I needed my children, and a good step-ladder, to get to them. And so, the day after I plucked that first fruit from the tree, we picked all that we could reach: about a bushel.

The next day, as my intention was to turn them all into jam and cobbler and whatever we could muster before they spoiled, they all appeared with odd and different-sized bruises on them. I thought my sons had been too rough with the peaches while picking and so I blamed them, at first. But I soon realized as I cut into each peach that most had small worms in their pits. These tiny, damaging devils must have gotten in at another point in the peach's life cycle, burrowing and waiting for the right, ripe moment to attack from within. They, too, knew when the peaches were at their best expression of perfection as those nasty worms were eating the tree-ripened peaches from the inside out! Parts of the peaches remained acceptable to eat, in small chunks and sides, so I carefully cut those out and used them in a delicious batch of sangria.

But I was truly crest-fallen. How could this be? We're not orchardists by any stretch and yes, I appreciate organic produce. However, I can assure you, I will find any means possible to have a worm-free peach crop next year, even if it means being non-organic in the process. We have no idea what we ingest from the produce at the grocery store so better to have some understanding and control of what I put on my own garden, when necessary. I am hoping that there will be a semi-organic, not too chemical-driven solution––like the diatomaceous earth I just sprinkled on my broccoli and cabbage plants to rid them of the little green and damaging cabbage worms that can plague the brassicas.

It would seem that there is a parasite or foe for every living thing and worms are especially insidious to a species. It would also seem that rot seeks perfection. But the lesson here is that nothing is ever perfect and trying to attain it or even flirt with it––or even to deny it––gives perfection power. "When we make plans, God laughs." Isn't that how the expression goes?

Yet the memory of that one truly perfect and luscious peach, picked by my own hand and selfishly savored on one hot day in May will stay with me forever.

While I will patiently wait for the "Baby Gold" peaches to arrive later in August from Pennsylvania for our canning fest, I will eat and cook or bake with the larger and earlier southern varieties––including the ones ready now at nearby Haney's Appledale Farm. They might not be from our tree, or even organic, but they will do.

You come back when you're ready!


1 comment:

  1. Reading this post makes my mouth watering for some peaches. I wish I have a peach tree.


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