• Surprises From The Orchard

    Indian Free peaches. Yum.

    Sometimes (all the time?) the garden and orchard throws you some surprises. We just spent months, with only middling results, fighting off the varmints from our peaches and nectarines (only passive measures, but one does get tempted to go “active”). Meanwhile, in the corner of the orchard one of our smaller trees had some peaches, but they seemed destined to stay hard and green forever. In fact, these were our Indian Free peaches, and they are a real treat.

    The Indian Free peach is a late-season heirloom peach, common in the northwest and known for resistance to leaf curl. It’s been a popular peach for centuries, Thomas Jefferson even had them at Monticello. And as Jefferson was quite a gourmet, we aren’t surprised, the Indian Free peach is incredibly tasty and very beautiful. Actually we should say the insides are beautiful, with lovely variegated red and white color. The outsides are somewhat less attractive with less blush tones and more dark patches. But beauty often really is skin deep.

    While the Indian Free’s appearance is somewhat undesirable (this and need for a pollinator make it perhaps a less popular commercial variety), the flavor is among of the best of any stone fruit we’ve tried. The Indian Free’s flesh is similar in color and flavor to a blood orange, with more tangy and “berryish” flavors than most peaches. And since we are big fans of blood oranges (see our early posts from last winter) we are instant fans of our Indian Free peaches. And while we could use them in cocktails or put up a few, we are just eating them…..quickly…

    Early Meyer lemons.

    Kaffir limes.

    Why didn’t the squirrels and wood rats go after the Indian Free peaches? We have no idea. We didn’t reinforce or weight the nets, and we waited until they were ripe (the varmints tend to go after the fruit a few days before we would pick). We could come up with any number of plausible explanations, but we have no real evidence of any changes in the orchard. We will chalk it up to dumb luck. Go figure.

    As for the rest of the orchard, the pears and figs are coming soon, and we are very excited. The Comice pears and the figs should be ready in a week or two (some concern that what we thought was a Black Mission Fig is a different fig variety, more on this later). And the “mystery” heirloom pears that grow on the side of the house are still at least a month or two out- these take a while. But once they are done, a new season begins.

    And that means citrus! Our Meyer and Eureka lemons, Kaffir limes and Cara-Cara oranges are off and running. Meyer lemon-based punches for the holidays are already coursing though our minds. And sorbet, and preserved lemons, and lemon curd….you get the idea.

    And as a last pre-holiday bonus, we leave you with pomegranates. We get just a few every year. Not enough to call it a crop, but just enough for a snack and some smiles….