Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Peach Tree Gives

Since I first started gardening a few years ago, the month of August has always been about tomatoes.  But now that we've settled into our little farmhouse -  one that happens to have an old fruit tree planted in front of it - I can happily say that from this moment on, August will be about peaches as well.

I've always dreamed of living in a home surrounded by fruit trees, which is partly why I spent much of this past spring planting over a dozen all around our one acre lot.  Growing up in Philadelphia, I don't recall seeing many vegetable gardens (maybe because there was never much of a yard attached to any of the row homes in our neighborhood).  However,  to this day, I can picture the several fruit trees and shrubs that doted the urban landscape.  I was fascinated by them.  And along with a few childhood friends, even raided a few of them.  They seemed out of place yet very special -  a reminder that there was a greener world that existed beyond all of the row homes, alley ways, asphalt and concrete.  I guess in many ways, this fascination has stuck with me, despite the fact there's a lot more greenery in my life these days. 

One of the first things I did when we moved in last year, was to rejuvenate this old peach tree.  I'm not quite sure how old it is, but the woman who lived in our home years ago told me during an impromptu visit (and trip down memory lane) earlier this summer that the tree was here when she first moved in back in 1974.  None of our older neighbors can recall a time when the tree wasn't here.  In any case, I pruned several decades worth of dead branches from the interior of the tree last fall.  Then in late winter, I removed a major top limb that grew towards the middle of the tree in order to allow more light to reach its center.  I probably should have also trimmed back and removed a number of smaller branches as well, but this seemed like a good place to start.

In any case, I was more than thrilled to see the tree produce thousands of small pink blooms this past spring.  Then it went on to set hundreds of small immature fruit.

Unfortunately as the summer progressed, the tree did not shed as much fruit as I would have liked.  So the peaches we harvested were more the size of large plums.  However, the quality of the fruit was pretty impressive.  I can see now that growing perfect organic peaches can be much easier than growing apples or pears.  While some of the fruit had small blemishes, most looked perfect.

Of course the best looking fruit were found near the top of the tree.  These peaches were exposed to the greatest light and hence had the greatest amount of blush on their skins.  

 Standing underneath the tree and looking up at all of the ripe peaches, you can't help but feel like a kid again.  It's a magical sight really, and one that I hope my son will remember when he's older. 

 Over the course of two and a half weeks, we picked several large bucketfuls - more peaches than I could count -  and ate our fill of fresh peaches each day.  The rest, I peeled and froze for use this winter or made into a firm fruit spread (to be eaten with cheese), which I canned. 

 Of course, when you have an old tree, it can be quite a challenge to reach the fruit at the very top.  Having a ladder helped somewhat, but we ultimately bought a handheld fruit picker, which attaches to any long pole.  We happened to use the pole that came with our roof rake.  It worked great, though next year, I'll probably line the bottom of the basket with some bubble wrap to protect the extra ripe ones from bruising.  

Of course we had quite a few windfalls as well.  Hundreds I would imagine.  We were able to salvage a few of them, but since I was traveling for much of this month, most of these started to rot on the ground and ended up on the compost pile.  I hated to see so many go to waste, but when you have hundreds of peaches hanging from a tree like manna from heaven, the loss became much more bearable.

I'm not expecting the harvest to be this good every year, but the fact that one tree can offer up so much goodness gives us plenty of reason to be thankful.  We were glad to be able to share the bounty with many of our neighbors as well.  Hopefully our old peach tree will continue to produce for many more years to come.  And to think that we owe our good fortune to an unknown prior owner who had the good sense to plant a fruit tree.  To this person, I offer our sincerest thanks!

6 comments:

  1. Oh. My. God. My favorite fruit, by the hundreds!! Wow, that's just awesome beyond words. So that's a (at least) 40 year old tree? Wow. I planted a peach at the farm last year and it's growing but I hope I'm no 90 before I get peaches, LOL!

    The tree is definitely happy that you and your family have come along to take care of it...

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  2. Oh, you are so fortunate!
    We tried peaches here, even though at zone 4 we knew we'd probably never get any. They progressed nicely for 4 years--we even got a couple of peaches. But this past winter proved too much for them and we lost all 3 trees. I was so saddened by this.
    Enjoy the bounty. I'm glad you froze a bunch for winter use as well. Nothing beats that taste in the dead of winter.

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  3. Isn't peach season great? Our trees are just small dwarf trees, and pruned so they are no taller than me. But they really produce. I hand thin my peaches though. Like you I find the tree doesn't drop its fruit much. But then I can reach my tree easily so it isn't too hard. Though I take off about 3/4 of the fruit I think I could have taken off more this year. Now I wonder how it will produce next year.

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  4. What I wouldn't give to have some mature fruit trees on our property. Those peaches - and that tree - look just heavenly. You are indeed so lucky! I don't have a peach tree yet, only a plum & cherry, but it is definitely on our list.

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  5. Beautiful peach tree, nice harvest after all the hard work, those peaches make me drool.

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  6. How fantastic to have so many home grown peaches. I'd settle for a couple from our little tree.

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