The temperatures were back up this week, with highs in the low 90’s and big time humidity. It was like Mother Nature was reminding us that peach season is right around the corner.
Peaches love warm sunny weather, and our peaches are ripening nicely. I’ve been visiting our early peaches every other day, and I ate my first peach of the season on Thursday. As much as I enjoyed it, I knew that it meant that peach season is nearly upon us, and with the season comes its own pressures and stresses.
Peaches are one of those fruits that tastes best when it is best picked soft. There, I said it. Secret is out. As one of our employees said years ago – the best peaches are eaten right in the field!
The fact is, no grower can afford to let his peaches get soft on the trees, because they are impossible to ship or pack that way. There is no more certain way to grow broke than to ship soft peaches, because no matter how great they taste, the buyer will send them back because they have insufficient shelf life. So we all do what we must, and pick them while they are still firm.
And here’s the difference between your local grower, and the big orchards in Georgia or California. We tend to let our peaches ripen an extra few days on the trees to pick up more flavor; whereas the big commercial growers pick their peaches as soon as they’ve attained sufficient size and color to make the grade. It doesn’t matter to them what the peaches taste like because believe it or not, the big grocery chains never really ask that question. Their inspectors never eat the stuff.
This can set up a race to the bottom in the fruit industry. Fruit breeders continually look for varieties that have pretty red color and consistent size, and ripen uniformly. Those peaches often get picked before they should, and they ship into supermarkets before the good local fruit. Consumers eat this stuff, and no surprise, they find it to be disappointing – and they get turned off from peaches for the season.
We sell our peaches through several different channels, so we always need to assume that every consumer who eats our fruit knows that it came from Shaw Orchards. So we are very picky about the way our fruit is harvested. Our peaches are picked as close as reasonably possible to that time when it starts to develop a soft shoulder around the stem.
Which also means that we place a lot of stress on ourselves to make sure that we have buyers lined up for those peaches, because even at 35 degrees in our cold storage, those peaches continue to ripen and will start to become soft in about a week. The clock is ticking.
… and the season is coming at us fast! Enjoy your peaches this year!