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Keeping Up With Maury
The end of the Peach Trail
by Maury Feren

I know everything in every generation is subject to change. So it comes as no surprise that all the well known apples have disappeared from the market place. In most of these cases, the changes have been good.

Instead of the once dominant red delicious apple, we have become great fans of the Frugi, Jonagold, the Granny Smith, Galas, the Pink Lady, and the newest craze the Honey Crisp. The only problem is that apples that sold at 50 to 99 cents a pound are now being offered at prices that are twice as high - or more.

However, that is not what I'm going to write about today.

The peach scene has been troubling me for a number of years. It has been so difficult to get a good tasting peach. One that you know at once that you have eaten a real peach.

You may also have noticed that most of the shipped peaches with a more reddish color are the clingstone varieties and a major portion of them are shipped from California. I have no quarrel with that, but I really don't feel as if I've eaten or enjoyed a real honest to goodness peach in a number of years.

So let me bring you back to what I remember. First of all, the peach varieties are all firmed up. The older delicate tasting varieties have all disappeared. Even our local grocers have fallen into that trap. It is so easy to change.

The seed opportunities are right there before you. The varieties that are offered have all the required essentials for a good commercial harvest. They have good color, are long keeping meaning good shelf life, and look beautiful. As far as taste and flavor go, that is last on their list of requirements. I don't understand that. But that is the way it works.

We are in a Haven market place. Red Haven, a variety of yesteryear still is as popular as ever. The problem with the Red Haven is that they have firm flesh, so you don't get that true peach flavor. We used to get a number of Haven varieties from Benton Harbor, Michigan which was the autumn place for a number of Michigan peach farmers. Now if you want to talk about true peach flavor, nothing could come close to those peaches. They had the color, the sweetness, and the peach juices that made these peaches so popular. They took over the market in their day and were considered the best of the best.

They were a great product for the consumer, but because of their skin and the peach juices that flowed through their body, they were highly perishable.

Supermarkets can't survive on ripe products like that. They need good keepers, something that would last for a week. That's why you only see hard fruit in a supermarket.

If the product can't last for a week or more, you won't see it in any supermarket. Let's look at Honeydews as an example. There wasn't one week this year, the summer of 2013, when you could purchase ripe Honeydews. Cantaloupes fared a bit better because they ripen past harvest. Honeydews do not ripen once they are picked, neither do watermelons.

So, with all these changes the once wonderful taste of South Carolina peaches has left us. I don't know why or wherefore South Carolina used to ship a superb peach layer packed in two sections. They would equal the taste of the best from anywhere. They were so flavorful and sweet that I would send them out as gifts. Somehow they have disappeared.

California will mourn about this. They are sure to say, "What about our peaches? Don't they have all the flavor and peach requirements you write about?"

Yes, they did have that special taste when they started out, but then you did something to them to make them keep longer. Now, they are just another variety. They keep longer, but they don't have the flavor they started out with.

I can remember the peach cooperative outside of Sandusky, Ohio. They grew a yellow peach called the Elberta. Talk about peach flavor, it couldn't be beat! They shipped their peaches in bushel baskets all over the country. I have to admit they were not the greatest looking peach, but they were freestone. So give them a high mark for that!

Now, if you want to talk about peaches that will knock you out, let me tell you about the fruit that was produced by Blackmore Farms at Blackmore Beach in Painesville, Ohio in 1950. These were the Hale variety, a full colored, reddish-yellow peach growing to 3 inches with every requirement for whatever you expected. I loved seeing them come in on boards that separated them so every peach would be protected.

The market people would stand in line just to get a few baskets of them for their best customers. I have to tell you, I stood in line as well. These peaches were like a dream. Every one of them shining and true, ripened to the perfect degree. I'll never see anything like it again. Those were the peach days.

Last but not least, Canadian peaches have no match. I first tasted them at a peach festival in Canada when I visited the area for a weekend of theatre. A number of years later, they began to ship to the Cleveland market. The quality was so good and the sweetness they brought with it made them an exceptional product. They would sell out immediately. No one could keep them in the store. Alas, they are gone! Canadian tariffs eliminated them.

So, once again, we are at the end of the peach trail.

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