Volume 7, Week 46, July 6–12, 2014
Dessert grows on trees you know. Peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots: it’s like we’re running a dessert factory. One day the trees are blooming, the next—poof—they’re magically loaded with dessert. Kinda changes your perspective, doesn’t it?
Hey there Uncle Vern, whatcha doin’? Well, I’m plantin’ me a dessert orchard, or, I’m fertilizing, irrigating, cultivating, pruning, thinning, and harvesting dessert.
They say we should start with the end in mind, but specifically; are we talkin’ cobbler, pie, or ice cream. Will they be canned, frozen or eaten out of hand?
You can just see a couple ol’ farmers leaning against a pick-up…How’s the peach crop Sam? Well George, if this weather holds, we should come in with about 30,000 smoothies to the acre. Gotta get the grass mowed down ahead of the pickers in the cobbler patch this afternoon, but the gophers are makin’ it tough to irrigate the pie.
I could have business cards made up: The Peterson Family, “Growing organic dessert since 1893.” Farming dessert is way cooler than being a salad farmer, just sayin’.
So, last week and this week are our heaviest harvest weeks, and then it drops off quite dramatically. Since we’ve had a couple straight weeks of 100+ temperatures, and since our dessert is harvested by men on ladders, I can hear you asking: “How do you cope with that?”
Simple, at 5:30 in the morning, it’s a wonderful 70 degrees. We do all we can until it gets to 100 and then the harvesters go home. And a wonderful thing happens in a peach orchard when it gets above 100. The trees shift their focus from growing and ripening fruit, to transpiration, or cooling their leaves. The peaches literally throw the “get ripe switch” to off and wait for us to come back tomorrow to get ripe! The sooner it gets to 100, the sooner we go home and tomorrow, we pick up where we left off. Cooler weather, say 85ish, means fruit gets ripe faster or more fruit to pick and guess what, we can put in a full 10 hours when it’s 85 and pick the additional amount. Wild isn’t it?
There’s just one caveat to make this whole thing work. On a really hot day, the harvested fruit itself needs to get from the field to the shed, and then into a happy place as quickly as possible. Happy = about 60 degrees. Stone fruit needs to be above 60 or below 40. We call the temperature in between the “Killing Zone,” as fruit in the 45-55 range turns mealy. Even worse would be to cool the fruit way down to say 33 degrees and then let it warm up and sweat before cooling it down again.
So what we do is get the internal temperature down to a happy 60 within a couple hours of it being on the tree. Then when we’re ready, we bring it out, get it packed, and then get the temp down to 33 as quick as we can.
What this information means to you, the dessert eater, is that this fruit is alive and a bowl or basket on your kitchen counter is probably the best place to keep your fruit until it gets to your preferred ripeness. At that point, either have dessert, or put it in the fridge to stop the ripening till you’re ready.
Now, I’ve gotta go pick some Zee Lady Ice Cream.