Summer in the palm of your hand
By Mark Mulcahy
What was your first reminder that it was summer? The first hot day? The really early morning sunrises? The crickets and their chorus of happy fiddles?
For me this year it was organic cherries that brought this wonderful time of year into view and into my mouth. First came the organic Sequoias, then the Bings, and finally, the Rainiers.
I must admit that I am a produce lover who gets very excited at finding the perfect piece of fruit or vegetable to bite into when it is just right. Then I can’t wait to share it with someone else as soon as possible. I once sent a friend a small bowl of cherries in the mail just so they could experience, as I had, the beginning of this long, wonderful season of some of the best produce in the world.
Cherries got me through until it was time for my favorite fruit – Melissa’s organic peaches! I must agree with Alice Walker who so eloquently said “Life is better than death, I believe, if only because it is less boring, and because it has fresh peaches in it.” Now that peach season is fully upon us. Melissa’s is stocked with some of the best. If you can find an O'Henry, Summer Lady, or a few other late season varieties, you won’t be disappointed. They are sunshine yellow-fleshed, chin drippy globes of delicious summer succulence. I say if you can find them because each variety has a very short window of availability.
One thing to remember this time of year is to eat them a little firmer, as they have been on the tree longer - which gives them more flavor but a little less moisture, so they’ll get mealy if you let them get too soft. While you’re choosing, smell the peach. Is it perfume-y and sweet-scented? It should be! Inspect the peach's surface. The skin shouldn't be bruised in any way; it should have a soft, downy covering of white fuzz; and it should be streaked with both pink and yellow. Once ripened (NOT BEFORE), peaches can be stored in the refrigerator, unwashed, for up to two weeks without a loss of flavor or texture.
Peach trees require a lot of nitrogen. Organic orchards whose soil is fed and managed with nitrogen fixing cover crops such as vetch and other legumes create better soil fertility. This method opens the soil and builds organic matter, providing better water retention and greater absorption of necessary enzymes and nutrients for healthier trees.
Lastly here’s a favorite peach poem to enjoy with whichever variety of Melissa’s organic peach you choose.
BY LI-YOUNG LEE
From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.
From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.
O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.
There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.