My mom who is 92 sounded pleased when she called me from her residence the other day. "Have you tried the peaches yet?" "Someone here gave me one. It was delicious!" Mom doesn't often share the joys of simple pleasures of life; especially with the daily dulling of arthritic pain. But the sparkle in her voice and her "peachy" experience prompted me to buy a dozen from the local grocery store. Sure enough, although a little smaller with raised sugar levels (not good for diabetics) it got me thinking about the weather we've been having and how it must have affected the Niagara crop this year.
Originally from China over 2000 years ago, the species spread westerly through Europe and made its way to the New World via Persia.
This summer's drought was a record breaker and I hear many farmers suffered; especially those with no irrigation systems. Smaller yields meant lost revenue because it takes more to fill baskets. We needed more steady rain for a few days in order to increase the yield but unfortunately nature didn't cooperate.
I wonder what the first breed of this most luscious of all fruits looked like. Originally from China over 2000 years ago, the species spread westerly through Europe and made its way to the New World via Persia. Statistics note that Niagara supplies 98% of Ontario peaches and 81% of Canada's market. With a 100-year growing history of peaches you can imagine how crucial it is to get out a yearly crop from Niagara regardless of the weather.
Today there are about 2000 varieties of peaches and three common varieties are the semi-freestone, freestone and clingstone.
The “Semi-freestone” peach such as the Harrow Diamond or Garnet Beauty are available in mid July. The Freestone peach pit separates easily from the fruit. Redhaven is an example available in early to mid August. Baby Gold or “Clingstone” peaches have a pit firmly attached to their flesh. A distinctive taste and firm flesh these peaches are perfect for canning. Not only peaches, nectarines also are fat and sodium free containing vitamin A and C.
It's been a while since we hopped on an open truck and rode down to Niagara-on-the-Lake to our summer job picking peaches on a farm. We all had ladders so we could poke our heads into the branches while the peach fuzz floated down into our shirts driving us crazy.
Despite setbacks farmers still have the itch for success and there's no escaping from this community's peach farming business. It's king and here to stay!