Thursday, July 17, 2008

The fruit tree commitment




The peach trees finally quit giving. We have been harvesting fresh peaches from the 2 semi-dwarf trees for several weeks now, and we canned 5 pints, jammed 3 1/2 pints, and dehydrated 4 trays in the American Harvest dehydrator. (www.Pickyourown.org has a lot of good on-line canning tutorials if you don't have a book.) Also, we gave Granny several buckets of peaches, which she promptly jammed into 8 pints - one time while she was baby-sitting our toddler boy. Don't know how she does it!


I also tried dehydrating in my Tulsi Sun Oven - but the peaches only got about 1/2 dry between 10:30 am and 6 pm - they turned into a kind of peach candy, which were so sweet I immediately ate the whole batch. And I do mean the WHOLE batch. Next time I will try dehydrating the peaches in my car, the way that I have seen suggested on some other sites.


For all the yumminess, we did in fact have to work a bit. Enjoyable work, but still work. Some books will imply that you just plant trees and harvest fruit forever! No. Here's my time estimate of the work I have done this year on the 2 peach trees (probably times will decrease as we become more experienced):
  • Pruning - 2 hours (more because I am a pruning novice)

  • Thinning - 3 hours (3 different times)

  • Harvesting - 3 hours (3 different times)

  • Picking up overripe fruit off the ground - 2 hours

  • Canning, jamming, and dehydrating - 8 hours

What did I learn this year about peaches?

  • Next year I will try to spray the trees with some kind of organic oil.

  • If we don't spray, we lose about 1/2 the peaches to larvae (which must be cut out of each peach - gross, but still worth it.)

  • I must, must, must be severely brutal when thinning. No mercy!

  • Peaches are much sweeter if I pick them just ripe.
  • But if I pick the peaches just before they are ripe, they are slightly less likely to have larvae inside.

  • Home grown peaches beat grocery store peaches by about a million miles.

  • If I don't pick the peaches off the tree, I must pick them off the ground.
  • If you are choosing a variety of peach, consider picking a "freestone" variety - we picked JH Hale and Hale Haven, which seem to be "clingstone" - harder to process because you have to do more cutting.
  • Dehydrating peaches for 16 hours might be a little overkill. Next year will check them after about 6 hours.

So, all in all, growing peach trees is worth the work - especially if we can preserve more of the crop next year. Keep in mind that we will have to do this EVERY year of the peach tree's lives (although apparently peaches only live about 10 - 15 years, rather short lived compared to an apple tree). Right now, that may seem like a burden to some people. In the years to come, I believe it will seem more like a blessing.

PS - Don' t ever try putting your jars in a pyramid for a cute picture like I did above - we lost a pint that way. RIP.

4 comments:

Chile said...

Peaches picked off your own tree at the peak of ripeness are worth the work. I miss the tree we had at an old house years ago. It was huge and loaded with fruit. Back then, I didn't know diddly squat about pruning so I didn't do anything to the tree. Still had lots of fruit. I didn't can or dry back then, so all of them went straight in my mouth or in the freezer. Removing a bag at a time, letting it defrost halfway, and then eating the still-icy sweet peaches was simply heaven.

Oh, I wanted to mention that my "canning guru" told me she harvests her peaches just before ripe because they make better jam. I haven't tasted the jar she gave me yet, so I can't say for sure.

anajz said...

Gosh this all sounds wonderful. I have been trying to decide about whether to purchase pear or peach trees for our front yard. I guess I should research a bit better to see if maybe I have enough space for both. :)
Do you have a good resources for purchasing dwarf trees? I've been looking at the Arbor Foundation.
That is an interesting looking solar oven. Do you have more than two?

Hausfrau said...

Hi anajz, most peach trees are self-fertile, and I believe most pear trees are not. If any of your close neighbors have one you should be ok. But otherwise you might need 1 peach, 2 pear. My source for dwarf/semi-dwarf trees is http://www.burntridgenursery.com/ and http://www.raintreenursery.com/. Raintree also has lots of great information. Both are pretty reputable - check out Dave's Garden for reviews.

Also, this is the Tulsi Hybrid. The other one (on my sidebar) is the Global Sun Oven.

Verde said...

Ohh, love the peaches! they are so versatile. I have even made up whole peach pies and frozen them. Voila - fresh peach pie at some special meal in the dead of winter!