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Just Peachy

“An apple is an excellent thing – until you have tried a peach.” George du Maurier

Summer brings many delectable fresh fruits into grocery stores and farmer’s markets, but one fruit in particular reigns supreme throughout July, August and September – the California peach. With apologies to our fellow farmers in Georgia, California peaches are truly delicious, desired and diversified as we grow at least 175 different varieties!

Peaches, the third most popular fruit grown in America, are produced commercially in 23 states. The top four states are California, South Carolina, Georgia and New Jersey. Our state accounts for nearly 74 percent of peach production, and supplies nearly 51 percent of the fresh peach crop and more than 97 percent of the processing peaches. Leading peach–producing counties are Fresno, Tulare, Kings, Stanislaus and Merced. We started our peach harvest last week and all of our peaches are sold to Wawona Frozen Foods. The varieties on our farm include Zee Lady, August Lady, Fair Time and Carnival —varieties not typically found in grocery stores. They are all freestone peaches, meaning the pits can be easily removed. The cling varieties are used mainly in the canned peach industry. In our June 16 Picks, we discussed how to select riper fruit when shopping at a Farmer’s Market or the grocery store. For yellow peaches, you're looking for a warm yellow undertone with little or no green around the stem end. If there’s a little amount of green undertones, you can help speed the ripening process by using a plain paper bag. Set the bag on its side and arrange peaches in a single layer in the bag, stem-side down, so they're resting on their "shoulders." Make sure the sides of the peaches are not touching each other. Fold the top of the bag closed and let it sit undisturbed at room temperature. After 24 hours, check peaches for color and aroma. Keep a close eye on them though! Peaches emit ethylene gas, a naturally occurring plant hormone that triggers the ripening process. Enclosing peaches in a bag traps the gas and speeds the ripening. You can store them uncovered in the fridge to stop the ripening process. But don't leave them in there for too long, otherwise the cold will make them dry and mealy. There are so many ways to enjoy fresh peaches. I bake with them, grill them, jam them and freeze them so I can have fresh peaches throughout the winter. Here are a couple of recipes I enjoy making for friends and family. Remember to buy California-grown peaches this summer!

Liz, her husband Earl, their grown children and their families make up Hudson Farms, a fifth-and sixth-generation family farm in Sanger, CA.

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