When I see people throwing out food I think of all of the labor it took to get that food into a kitchen, both commercial and home kitchen. Back-breaking labor. The kind of labor spent from sun up to sun down using every muscle of the body, the labor that ‘comfort food’ was made to counter the calories spent to replenish the energy burnt as fuel on the fields. That was a little reference to the change in our highly efficient food culture as it pertains to our highly inactive virtual life style.
I have neighbors who are members of a very select group (chosen from written requests to join every year) that have the privilege of maintaining a peach tree on an organic peach farm in the heart of the farm country on the Central Coast of California. The Masumoto family has been growing organic peaches for 4 generations and David Mas Masumoto has beautifully documented the proud heritage of his family’s business in several really great books that map the change from family farm to industrial farm nation that his family has resisted. In exchange for my neighbor’s care and labor I get cases of the most beautiful peaches I’ve ever had with very deep appreciation of everything it took to get them to me. Every year I make it a point to come up with new recipes in exchange for the generosity of my neighbors, Ken and Myumi and the Masumoto farm. I’ve made peach ketchup! They inspire me.
When I was a girl my sister Kathy ate a delicious peach, she planted the stone (the pit inside a peach is called a stone and it is consequently called ‘A Stone Fruit’ along with plumbs, apricots etc.) in the garden and that peach grew into a beautiful and fruitful tree. We were in Connecticut, not commonly thought of as a peachy climate, and for good reason. The fist sentence makes it sound so simple but it took more than five years for it to actually grow peaches, itty bitty peaches born in a growing season too short for the luxury of big or many.
That tree required a lot of attention, which my father gave it willingly knowing that the reward would very well be worth it if he could make that little tree happy. It was growing near an apple tree that he had fused 5 varieties of apples on: green, yellow, Macintosh, Delicious and Pippin. Not on 5 trees but all on the same tree, there were branches of different colored flowers, and different colored apples that all came at different times. He got a kick out of that tree, of explaining his genius in extending the apple season and not getting board of the same apples overloading the families interest. I think it’s part of the nature of the world for produce to be overly abundant when in it’s life giving cycle. An abundance of seeds: more than the ground can bare, more than the birds can eat; an abundance of produce to the point where your digestive tract can reach a point of overload (and I think you know what I mean when I say that). “I can’t eat another blahblah-blah as long as I live” so you share a basketful of peaches with your neighbor and they in turn, give you a basketful of zucchini. We were born to share, the fruits of our labor and the recipes that go along with them.
But let’s get back to the peaches. Real Peaches, fuzzy soft skin with flesh that is fragrant and juicy when ripened to perfection. You have to pick the peach yourself to have the full flavor, fragrance and juicy reward. When they’re near ripe they’re too fragile to carry home without a whole lot of attention to packing, I get the Mas Masumoto peaches in a crate with soft inserts. I’ve bought peaches that were like sawdust when I cut them opened but this is a year of bumper crops of peaches, the best I’ve had in years. I take special mesh carrying bags with me to the farmer’s market just for the peaches and I put them on the top of the basket that I use to carry everything, which I have secured so that it doesn’t roll around in the car on the trip home.
2 Dice, spin the knife through the flesh in both directions and dice around the stone. It will easily cut away.
So this week I found baby peaches at the farmer’s market, I’ve made peach ice cream using honey and coconut milk and just a little lavender water. I’ve convenience myself that it’s health food. Really really good for me health food, because what I believe is that if I’m happy I’m more likely to be healthy and honey, peaches and coconut milk and lavender awake my senses including my sense of joy. So far everyone’s agreed with me even though they’ve had a mouth full of organic peach ice cream, well, they could have shook their head instead of nodding before they asked for seconds.
And as I’m thinking my mother never said “I can’t eat another peach as long as I live” or apple either, but zucchini? If you’ve ever grown zucchini I think you know what I mean…more than the neighborhood could eat.