It's peach season, and peach season means delicious tree-ripened peaches - and lots of work.
We have two semi-dwarf peach trees (JH Hale and Hale Haven) which ripen mostly in tandem for about three to four weeks. Not all the peaches ripen at once, so I squeeze the little fuzzies every day when they start to turn tawny to catch the ones that ripen early. If they give slightly, they are tree-ripe, the sweetest kind. However, I pick some of them before they are fully ripe so that I don't have to spend a marathon few days picking them when they are completely tree-ripened (which would KILL my shoulder). Even though we have semi-dwarf trees, I still have to use a ladder to reach about half of them. Ah, the benefits of being 5'2".
We eat them fresh, with oatmeal and for snacks, and give the prettiest ones away to neighbors, friends and family. I usually give two grocery bags to Granny, who will can them up and then share her sandplum jam, cucumber pickles and canned green beans with us. I always include this caveat - "I don't spray, so cut them up before you eat them. :)"
Lately, I have also been spending about an hour every day dehydrating my harvest to make peach chips, which my son absolutely loves to eat, and which I love to feed him, because it's not a food-substitute like animal crackers or goldfish. Strangely, I don't make many peach cobblers or other peach desserts in-season. I think it's because I am too tired after spending an hour peeling and chopping peaches for my Nesco dehydrator. A load of peaches takes about 12 - 14 hours to finish drying, and amazingly, translates to only slightly more than a pint when completely dried.
Despite the hours spent thinning the peaches in the spring, and a later rough hail which knocked many immature peaches off the trees, we have another bonanza crop this year! I am weighing the harvest from my two trees, and have recorded 102.5 pounds so far - not counting the first two sets of dehydrated peaches I made. I estimate I have another 50-75 pounds still on the trees. In years past, I have frozen and canned them and canned peach-pie filling. This year I will be satisfied with just making peach chips and peach jam. Right now I have six grocery sacks of peaches sitting on my kitchen floor. I gave my shoulder and forearms a break yesterday, so it's back to work today!
Peach trees are a commitment to properly care for, to harvest and preserve, but I have to admit that NOTHING else I grow even comes close to the bounty I get from them. 150 - 175 pounds? Not small change in my world. If I were to preserve all these peaches, instead of giving them away, it would be enough to keep us in constant peaches year-round. Plus, the trees are beautiful when they bloom and beautiful when the peaches ripen. So despite the commitment, and the work, I love my peach trees. I'm growing them for the food security of my family, for the taste of organic peaches year-round, as a demonstration/example for our neighborhood, and also, because it's really kind of fun to run a mini peach farm in the city.