One of my favorite childhood memories was the day my Irish grandmother came to our house to can peaches. We had four peach trees on the property. My father would pick them and stack the boxes on the back porch. The scent of warm, ripe peaches filled the air. As my grandmother pulled her old ‘57 Chevy into the drive, he would disappear into the bowels of his garage. Only the hint of cigar smoke gave away his location.
All day my mother and grandmother washed and sliced, simmered and stirred. Like puppies, my sisters and I would hide under the dinette table to watch and wait for a peachy treat. My mischievous grandmother would engage in antics (not approved of by my mother) and occasionally let a swear word slip that sent my sisters and I into fits of the giggles. Finally we were ejected from our hiding spot and sent outside.
Summer — the simple pleasure of savoring that first sun-warmed peach straight from the tree, its juice dribbling down my chin — life doesn’t get much better. We are so lucky to live in Nevada County, where peaches have a long agricultural history. Commercial peaches picked unripe, refrigerated and shipped long distances are no comparison. In recent weeks the farmers’ markets have been selling fruits from the Marysville valley that ripen first, but local peaches are now coming in.
Sunsmile Farms is a 70-acre family farm that has been in existence for 75 years and is a beloved part of our community. It specializes in U-pick cherries, berries, apples, nectarines and more than 40 varieties of peaches, but in the past their farm stand has sold a huge variety of produce, as well. Currently, the farm is about to go out of business. A water dispute with Nevada Irrigation District has forced owner, George Loftus, to cut back on planting. Thousands of dollars of established trees and plants, as well as income, has been lost.
Sunsmile has a bumper crop of peaches this year. U-pick is an easy way to stock up, even can some for next winter, and help out one of our local farmers. The next few weekends they will be open for U-pick peaches and blackberries. Weather updates would be advisable, considering the recent rains. Located off of Rough and Ready Highway on West Drive, you may want to get more information by going to the farm’s website at www.sunsmilefarms.com or by calling 273-6507
Bierwagen’s Donner Trail Fruit is another long-standing farm family well-known for flavorful peaches. They are open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and are located at 18532 Colfax Highway in Chicago Park. They are currently picking several varieties of peaches, as well as boysenberries, apricots, strawberries and other produce.
The farmers’ markets will also have many varieties of peaches available in the upcoming weeks.
Patti Bess is a local freelance writer and recipe developer. You can contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.