Archive for August, 2010

Summer Peaches

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

It’s peach time in Ohio! Walk into any grocery store and peaches will be the centerpiece of the fruit section. They are soft, fragrant and juicy. Take a close look; most large grocery store chains have over-priced fruit from another state. The problem is not only the price of the peach, but that the fruit is picked before it is mature so that it will last on shelves much longer. This summer try a different approach: Head to a local orchard and “pick” your own peaches. I’m talking about peaches so juicy, they’ll drip off your elbow! So let me tell you about my 3 favorite local farms.
I kidnapped my family and took them on an adventure to find the best peaches in Portage county. We spent the morning at three local farms’ markets. Our first stop was Hilgert’s berry farm in Randolph, Ohio. This farm has a market with freshly picked produce offering everything from green tomatoes and jalapeno peppers, to new potatoes and pecks of peaches. The prices are reasonable and affordable. My favorite feature of Hilgert’s berry farm is that they allow you to pick your own fruits and vegetables from the ground, vines and trees. Their website, www.hilgerts .com, has a schedule of produce selection and picking options. You could actually go to Hilgert’s once a week and pick a different variety of fruit and vegetables and still save money!
The peaches are available for sale individually, by the quart, ½ peck, ½ bushel or 32-pound bushel. They are already picked and ready for sale. Beware: The most dangerous thing about these prices being so low is that it causes your eyes to be bigger than your stomach. Before buying, have an action plan of how the peaches will be consumed. Here are a few examples if you need to get your brain moving in the right direction: picnics, sleepovers, canning, freezing, laxative, drying, pork chops, peach tea, salsa. Need more ideas? Go to the recipe section on my site to get some great inspiration, or contact me personally and I’ll fill your head with ideas until is spins!
After picking up bags of fresh veggies and pecks of peaches, we headed for Stahl’s farm market in Ravenna. As soon as we walked into the market, the sweet smell of peaches filled the air. Candle companies have been trying to duplicate this smell but cannot come close to the scent, sight, sounds and the feeling of childhood, in a jar full of wax. Stahl’s has a huge variety of peaches, pears, apples and, of course, vegetables. They have a large selection of first and second pick, as well as canning peaches. Sound confusing? I’ll explain below…
“First picks” are the largest peaches with no bruising. “Second picks” are a little smaller with minimal bruises and some splits. These are great for making milkshakes and smoothies, feeding to the kids, or freezing. The canning peaches are smaller, yet with more bruising and splits. These are very ripe and must be used quickly.
A fun fact about Stahl’s, in the summer of 2008, in the midst of his Presidential campaign tour, President Barack Obama stopped in to buy some peaches! Go to Stahl’s website, to see pictures of our President enjoying this event.
Finally, we headed to Beckwith’s Orchards in Kent. Beckwith’s is known for its late summer harvest and apples. They provide school tours, a wonderful little shop, homemade pies, and an apple orchard ready for your picking. But my initial draw was their peaches.
If you are looking for a few ways to save a buck or two and enjoy your summer fruit in a different way, check out your local farms and see what amazing produce they have to offer. You will be thanking me, I promise. If that’s still not convincing, how about this… the more we support our local farms, the more money they earn. The more money they earn, the more crop they can plant the following year. The more crop, the more business. Without our local farms we will run out of food… get it? Let’s support them at every opportunity that comes our way!