“Life is better than death, I believe, if only because it is less boring, and because it has fresh peaches in it.” ― Alice Walker,
Last summer, from June through September, we multiply thinned, multiply harvested (and asked friends and acquaintances, and their friends and acquaintances, over to harvest), sliced, peeled, froze, Vodka-ized, brandy-ized, peachcello’d, baked, cooked, and ate the peaches that grew on two semi-dwarf “Red Haven” peach trees that anchor the fruit guild garden.
But in the stone fruit frenzy, I forgot to write about it. Now, with some distance — though a new bumper crop ripens inexorably on the trees as I write — I can finally document the tumult, mayhem, and delight of the 2017 peach season in our suburban yard in New Hampshire.
The two semi-dwarf trees, already a good size when purchased from a local farm stand, were planted in late summer of 2011. The next year, we had a couple of peaches on one tree. In 2013, no flowers or peaches. Two more peaches appeared on the same tree in 2014, then nothing on either tree in 2015 or 2016. Last summer, both trees made up for lost time with over 1,000 peaches between them. In fact, major tree limbs broke with their weight.
This year, we have a half-dozen limbs propped up with crutches to try to prevent a recurrence.
The saga began in May, or rather, I’m sure it began much earlier, but the humans noticed it in May.
By mid-June, we had peach nubs, which we started thinning.
In the three or four weeks following, we culled the peaches three times so that they weren’t closer than about 5″-6″ apart on the same branch. It’s one of those terrible things you have to do in a garden, destroy perfectly perfect fruit or flowers in their infancy so that what remains is stronger and healthier.
We watched them grow and redden in July and August …
And then came the first harvest, on 22 August 2017:
And another harvest …
And with dozens of harvests, which went on until mid-September, I tried to find creative ways to use the peaches now or preserve them for later. One of the easiest ways to use a lot of peaches without too much prep is to make peach vodka and peach-cello (like limoncello but with peaches instead of lemons).
Somehow I never took a photo of the peachcello and it’s all gone now. But here’s peach vodka in the making:
We made some lovely peach cocktails using the peach vodka:
Peach Punch Cocktail recipe
An orangish cocktail made from peach vodka, lime juice, orange juice, and elderflower liqueur, served in a chilled cocktail glass.
- 2 oz peach vodka
- 1/2 oz elderflower liqueur (St-Germain)
- 1/2 oz orange juice
- 1/2 oz lime juice
- Garnish: Peach
- Shake all ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker.
- Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
- Garnish with a peach slice.
“The waiter walked over with a tray and two orangey-pink drinks. He placed them on the table. “Georgia Peaches. Peach schnapps, brandy, cranberry juice- the first request the bartender’s ever had for one of these.” ― Jenny Nelson,
And we made peach cobbler, peach bread, peach slices to be frozen, peach crepes — and spouse baked a peach pie from the frozen peaches just a month ago.
“Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?” ― T.S. Eliot,
Lots of friends, neighbours, and veritable strangers came over to pick peaches from the trees. Some made peach jam and gave us a few jars!
I also advertised far and wide that there were fresh peaches in pans in the garage, with paper bags available, too, and that anyone could come collect them at their leisure. Batches were labelled as to ripeness and readiness; if the very ripe ones weren’t taken, I used them that day for something, whether more vodka, peach bread, our dessert, or just as an afternoon snack.
By 11 September, there were just a few peaches still on the trees:
And I picked the last of the bounty on 13 September.
There are still more peaches in the freezer, sliced and whole, and still a bit more peach vodka and peach brandy to be finished up before the next onslaught in three or four weeks.
Here are a few photos from the trees so far this year:
Last year while we were in thick of the peach pother we had almost daily visits from, it turned out, a neighbour’s cat … whose name was Peaches!
The neighbours moved and Peaches hasn’t been back since … but maybe in August, when the stone-fruit peaches ripen, the feline Peaches will be drawn to us again?