“Peaches” is the answer to a question you probably haven’t asked yet: If you were going to grow just one type of tree fruit, which fruit should it be? The battle between fruit trees to claim your little yard as home, isn’t even a fair fight. Plant peaches — unless you hate the nickname “Peaches” — which you will inevitably get tagged with after exposing your friends to the explosive juiciness and flavor of the harvest. Early spring isn’t just for starting seeds; it’s time to plant the peaches.
Peaches come into production quickly. By default, people often say they want to start an apple orchard in their yard. No, no, no don’t do it! Apples can take up to seven years to start producing fruit. In the age of Twitter, who has that kind of time? Most dwarf peach varieties will yield the first peach in year two or three. I don’t want this piece to sound anti-apple, because that’s just plain un-American. It does need to be pointed out, that it is much easier to find good apples in the grocery store than good peaches. You can go really wrong buying peaches in the grocery store. I can still remember that peach from Stop & Shop during the summer of ’03. So. Gross. Yes hipsters, before you message me, I know we should all be going to our local farm stand for the highest quality produce.
You only need one tree. Peaches are self-pollinating, meaning you only need one variety (one tree) for the flowers to set fruit. Apples, to pick on them again, require cross-pollination to set fruit; you need two different varieties that bloom at the same time. And, you’d better hope the bees do their thing and move the pollen from one apple variety to another — oh, the drama! Two of my favorite places to get fruit trees are Adams County Nursery and Stark Brothers. The most important information to check when shopping for a peach tree, is the winter hardiness. On Cape Cod (where I live), Redhaven is a solid variety to start with, and is adaptable across southern New England down to the mid-atlantic states. For a more daring jump into growing peaches, consider growing a white peach variety like White Lady. Please be careful who you give a white peach to; fruit will never be the same after eating one.
Supercharge the summer harvest! In the northeastern US, peaches are harvested July through September. For most people, this is peak grilling and dinner party season. Fish, chicken, salads — peaches can be added to almost any summer dish to bring the sweet into balance with the savory. I find myself constantly saying to people, “do yourself a favor and add peaches to that”. Peach salsa should be a go-to summer creation for the peach grower. Mix up fresh corn, tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, onions, and peaches in a salsa; it’s one of the easiest ways to add a huge dose of summer to a fancy dish, or just tortilla chips. You can throttle up or down the sweetness in your salsa by adjusting your tomato to peach ratio. Experiment with different ingredients to suit your taste, but if you must have a peach salsa recipe, the internet has about 1 million options for you.
Thankfully, I don’t actually remember the grocery store peach of ’03. But that first native peach in the summertime — that’s like a first kiss, and you don’t forget that.