My little farming experiment has fallen to neglect this year. No chickens, no tending the blueberries, no new trees, no watering the cranberries. The roses grow in a tangle. Forsaking even the simplest duties, I hired a kid to mow the grass. Given this malaise, my haul of peaches this week arrived as a glad reminder of seasons past.
Readers may recall that, several years ago, I cleared a meadow and planted fruit trees: five varieties of apple, two cherries, and two peach trees. The apples and cherries have struggled, I believe owing to poor air circulation. My favorite apple was killed by ravenous winter mice, who ate its tender bark. The peaches, however, have thrived. This year brought my second large harvest in three years.
It still astonishes that peaches grow in north Vermont. The variety I planted, called the Reliance Peach, was bred in New Hampshire specifically for cold hardiness. The results are impressive. The limb pictured above was so heavy with fruit that the entire tree leaned precariously and needed special staking. The primary enemy has been a fungus, called leaf curl or Taphrina deformans,which destroyed the foliage in the first year. With some pruning and spraying each fall and spring, this year the blight was eradicated.
And they are delicious! Juicy, sweet, tender, slightly tangy, incredibly refreshing in the humid summer sun. I collected probably forty peaches, while the deer, birds, and ants helped themselves to others. They ripened more or less simultaneously. I had hoped to can the surplus but I neglected to buy supplies, and so I am greedily devouring them all day — on cereal, in salad, over ice cream, as a mid-day snack — racing to finish before they spoil. They make excellent gifts, and I’ve given some to friends. With refrigeration, they’re keeping well, so the feast continues.
Several peaches were dented or broken, and these I baked into a cobbler.
It turned out nicely, but in truth the buttery-sweet cobbler introduced a syrupy heaviness that distracted from the excellent peach itself. The peach needs no adornment. I am reminded of Theodore Roosevelt’s admonition regarding the Grand Canyon: “Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. . . Man can only mar it.”
So with my two peach trees. A banner season indeed.
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