Peachy Reading

by Jeanne

For many of us, a peach is quintessential summer. It’s all that’s best about summertime. Long, sunny, hot days–homemade peach ice cream, a BBQ beginning with peach sangria and finished with peach cobbler, or just simply fresh from the farmer’s market barely blushed, tree-ripened with a burst of sweet juices running down your chin.

I find the peach to be sexy with its downy, velvety skin blushed with red and voluptuously curvaceous shape. Good peaches awaken all the senses.

Although Georgia may have the immediate association to peaches California is the largest peach source, growing more than half of the world’s supply.

One of those California growers is David Mas Masumoto, an organic peach farmer, philosopher, in Central California who writes about his practices and peaches in several books.

<a href="Epitaph for a Peach: Four Seasons on My Family Farm, describes life on the farm and his family’s work to save the juicy, flavorful Sun Crest variety of peach. Alice Waters in <a href="Chez Panisse Fruit states, “I cannot imagine how anyone could fail to be charmed by Sun Crest’s lovely golden skin overlaid by a brilliant red blush.” This non-fiction book won the 1995 Julia Child Cookbook Award, among other honors, and earned him a loyal audience of people hungry for writings on finding a deeper connection to the land, and to an agrarian way of life.

Over the weekend summer has finally arrived in long hot form here in San Francisco I sat in front of a fan reading David Mas Masamuto’s 2003, <a href="Four Seasons in Five Senses: Things Worth Savoring. Throughout this collection of short essays we embark on a lyrical literary journey through the senses on the ups and downs in a year of growing peaches. We come to love the land, peaches and develop an appreciation and understanding of what the farmer goes through during a day, month and year. As romantic as this may sound our lesson here is that by saving a peach, a farm is saved and in turn family, community and a way of life.

We need more everyday heroes like David Mas Masumoto.

Alice Waters seeks out the Sun Crest peach from David Mas Masumoto. I’ve also seen Frog Hollow peaches called out on the menu.

Pickled Peaches
<a href="Chez Panisse Fruit by Alice Waters

3 peaches
2 cups water
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup red wine
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
4 cloves
2 allspice berries
1/2 stick cinnamon
1 bay leaf

Pickle the peaches at least a day before you plan to serve them.

Peel the peaches; if the skins don’t come off easily, plunge the peaches into boiling water for less than a minute and immediately refresh them in cold water to loosen their skins. Cut the peaches in half and remove the pits.

Measure the water into a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the vinegar, red wine, honey, peppercorns, cloves, allspice, cinnamon, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the peach halves and cook just until tender, 3 to 5 minutes: test with a toothpick or sharp knife.

Carefully remove the peaches with a slotted spoon; they will be quite delicate. Let the pickling mixture cool slightly and then strain over the peaches. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for up to a week.

Makes 6 pickled peach halves.