Whitesburg KY

Peaches aren’t created same

Points East

It’s been five years since the three peach trees in my little orchard have had more than a dozen or so fruits to actually ripen.

Last year we didn’t get a single one, nor, for that matter, did we get a single apple or pear. The late April freeze saw to that. In fact, the freeze, combined with the drought, killed one of the peach trees altogether. I only have two in full bloom and one waiting for me to pull the chain saw back out. One of my apple trees has also succumbed to the elements.

I’m not expecting much of any of the survivors because they all suffered greatly in 2007. And I’ll be very surprised if we don’t get at least a couple more cold snaps accompanied by killing frosts. The pears can usually take it and, to be honest, I don’t much care whether the apples do much or not. Having discovered Brummet’s Orchard in Crab Orchard a few years back where 1,600 trees produce any variety of apple one cares to name, sold at prices so low I feel guilty that I might buy too many, I’ve since stopped worrying about my pitiful little dwarf Winesaps and Golden Delicious.

But I literally dream about peaches that have ripened on the tree because nothing tastes as fine as a plump and mellow peach when it’s eaten within seconds of leaving the limb that held it. I’m told that certain enzymes kick in the minute any fruit is picked – the same enzymes that cause it to ultimately rot after some time – and that the work of these little boogers either improves the taste or causes it to deteriorate.

Of course most anything we buy out of the produce stores these days has been sprayed or otherwise treated with chemicals that cause the enzymes to die or become inactive. They do something in the industry to keep peaches looking fresh for weeks, but a real peach, perfectly ripe and properly harvested should be rotten in three days. And it will never taste any better than in that instant when it was plucked from the branch.

So this evening as I rode my mower around the two trees that are lavender with honey-smelling blossoms, I said a silent prayer that this will be another year when I’ll have to get out the big stepladder and commence thinning out immature fruit before it breaks the branches. That actually happened five years ago. One tree was so heavily laden that it split apart. I’ve doctored it with stuff that looks like road tar but it’s still an amputee and as soon as the blossoms fall, I’m going to have to cut off a few more dead limbs and patch up some new scars.

I need a roll of plastic about 40 feet wide and say 100 feet long. I figure that I can use the stepladder to get it started up over the trees and that I can tie some rope to the corners and that, between the three of us, Loretta, Chris and I can get the trees covered enough to protect them from frostbite. I ran the idea by them earlier and Christopher, who is a produce man at E.W. James & Sons Grocers, allowed that it could be done.

“But why on earth would you shell out that much money for plastic and go to all that trouble for two peach trees when I can let you know the instant the ripe ones arrive at the store and get all you want for a lot less money than you’re getting ready to blow here?” he wondered.

“I want you to pick out the best peach on your rack and bring it out here if I can manage to get some to ripen on these trees,” I told him, “and I will make you embarrassed that you ever brought a fruit into that store and let on like it was a peach.”

He just grinned and shook his head. But I’m betting, if we pull the harvest off, that my son will concede that the old man is right about his peaches.

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