There is an abundance of fruit this fall; apple trees are lush with ruby red orbs while bright orange pumpkins and squash decorate prickly vines, deep purple blackberries line the woods, and peach trees are bowing down with jeweled globes of fruit.
Our family loves fresh peaches. Intensely fragrant, perfectly ripe, sweet and juicy, with velvety, red-blushed skin and soft orange flesh, peaches are the third most popular fruit in America. (Right behind apples and oranges)
A fruit native to China that migrated to New England via Persia, peach trees were planted by homesteaders up and down the Eastern Seaboard. The peach tree became so firmly established in the United States that botanists in the mid-1700s assumed that the fruit was native to America!
However, the life of a peach tree (compared to an apple tree) is short, often just 10 to 15 years. And peach trees can be challenging to cultivate due to our harsh winters and short summers. The trees need some fairly specific climatic conditions to prosper; primarily a dry temperate climate with chilling (as in a milder winter.) Just like Goldilocks, peach trees don’t like it too hot or too cold, but just right.
This year, the conditions for peaches must have been just right, because between the orchards we maintain and farming friends like Five Star Nursery in Brooklin, we have been blessed with more than 125 pounds of peaches. I’ve been canning peaches, packing peaches in jars with brandied syrup, grilling peaches to make Peach & Tomato Salsa, stirring up peach & wild blueberry smoothies and turning over-ripe peaches into muffins, cakes and pies.
The recipe for Peach Cake is a simple butter cake with fresh peaches baked into the batter. This cake’s light, melt-in-your mouth texture comes from beating room-temperature butter with sugar until light and fluffy (a process known as creaming), beating in the eggs one at a time, and then gently incorporating the flour and fruit. Sinfully delicious!
I encourage you to seek out fresh, Maine peaches, which all should probably come with a warning label: addictive! Once you’ve eaten a fragrant, perfect, sun-ripened peach with juices running down your chin, you may never be able to eat the green, hard rocks they pass off as peaches in the supermarket again.