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As many of you know, I’m up in Holmes County, OH, for the summer selling peaches at my grandparents’ roadside peach stand. We’re all from South Carolina, and in the summer we ship South Carolina peaches up to Holmes County, OH, and do wholesale and retail. Actually the retail stand where I work is a pretty small part of the business, but it gets us into the community and gives the people of Holmes County good peaches. Because we all know that all good things come from South Carolina. (PS – if you’re from the area you can like The Peach Barn on Facebook to get variety updates).
We deal with one orchard in South Carolina (it’s located about an hour from where my grandparents live, and we’ve become good friends with the owners and management) all summer long and get probably 20 different varieties over the summer. They’re all great peaches, and they’re all sweet and juicy – they just ripen at different times so we have to give them different names. There are some flavor nuances that vary from variety to variety, but all are great peaches (any from the Prince collection are my favorites because they have such great peach flavor as well as sweetness).
Now I realize that a lot of people have bought peaches in grocery stores and have been turned off on them because they never ripen out correctly, aren’t sweet, or get mealy. Therefore, we get a lot of cynics who don’t think it’s possible to buy a sweet, juicy peach anywhere on this planet. Granted, after being in business for 5 years, we don’t get nearly as many cynics as we used to. In fact, we get people in at the stand every day who tell us that our stand is the only place they’ll buy peaches because they’re always good here. The orchard we work with (and we ourselves) are committed to excellent peaches, so we pick them when they’re about 4-5 days away from ripening, ship them immediately, then keep them at room temperature to start ripening them out. Never put a ripening peach in the refrigerator after you buy it! That’s what makes them mealy, and that’s why a lot of peaches from grocery stores are gross. They’re refrigerated much too long. After the peaches are fully ripe, you can refrigerate them for 7-10 days to keep them fresh, but don’t do it before they’re ripe.
With all that background in mind, I can sympathize with the people who come to our stand and don’t want bad peaches yet another time. Some of the same old refrains get old after awhile. Some are just plain funny and keep us entertained:
1) Are these peaches any good? Um, no. We sell awful peaches.
2) Are these stone free? I have never heard of a peach without a stone. If you mean free stone (where the stone easily comes out), then yes: all of our peaches are free stone.
3) I only can/freeze Contenders/Red Haven/Baby Gold. There are much better varieties available. You like those varieties because they’re firm and don’t turn brown. Well, we have other great varieties that also don’t turn brown, hold up well for both freezing and canning (as long as you don’t cook the snot out of them in the pressure cooker), AND taste better. Keep an open mind.
4) I need ripe peaches for supper tonight. So you didn’t think to plan ahead, then blame me for not having ripe peaches? We try NOT to keep ripe peaches around because they get bruised much more easily here than on your counter at home.
5) If they’re not local, I don’t want them. They’re local for me.
Disclaimer: this was not meant to hurt anyone’s feelings. If you’ve come to the peach stand and asked me these questions, don’t feel bad. I understand where you’re coming from. Just laugh at yourself (and me) and drop by again for more good peaches.
A day at The Peach Barn may be exhausting, but it’s never dull. Not a day goes by that I don’t tell myself, “It takes all kinds to make the world go ’round.”