Peaches are an enigma wrapped in a fuzzy skin. Easy to delight in, harder to understand, the relative to the almond, apricot and cherry is full of contradictions: Golden hued fruits are almost universally better tasting but people are primally attracted to the red skinned varieties. A brown spot on the skin that looks like a blemish is actually a concentration of sugar; a mark of quality inside. The fruit can be refrigerated, but only after they’re ripe – chilling an unripe fruit will make it mealy. Georgia is known as The Peach State, when in reality the fruit is grown across the US and even though half the domestic crop comes from California, the best peach is the one grown nearest to you.
Despite their near koan-like quality, enjoying a peach requires no meditation. The tricky part, picking the fruit when it’s mature but not yet ripe enough to be damaged in shipping is handled by the grower. Peaches are climacteric, meaning they continue to ripen after they are picked. A firm peach needs only a time a room temperature until they soften. There’s no need to squeeze a peach, the bane of many orchardists, you can actually smell a ripe peach from yards away. One of the joys of buying at area markets is the fruits are grown for taste, not for their ability to be trucked to a store to sit on a shelf for a week. Ask your grower what’s and why it’s good.
Fresh, ripe peaches don’t need a cook to improve them. While the words, ‘peach pie,’ may make you smile, the peach embedded in your memory is the one you ate straight out of your hand during the dusk of a still hot day. Yet, not every peach will be ripe the exact moment you need it and sometimes it’s hard not to get all culinary on ingredients. Peach ice cream? Enough said! Sliced and tossed in port or red wine before dinner will yield a heavenly dessert; possibly topped with mascarpone. Grilled and topped with Sauce Romanoff, which sounds complicated but is just a combination of sweetened whipped cream and sour cream. A cobbler, mixed with blueberries and topped with Greenwillow Grains oats grown in the Willamette Valley will make the most Oregony dessert this side of strawberries. The season is short, stretching into early September, but the memories will last forever.