CLC Tree Services is located in London, Ontario, deep in the heart of Southwestern Ontario. We are surrounded by the Great Lakes, which makes for hot and humid summers, and cold and snowy winters. While you might hear locals moan about the widely contrasting seasons, they do make for perfect growing conditions for the far-reaching farmland which surrounds us.
One of the juicy and delicious crops which is just about ready, is prevalent in the nearby Niagara peninsula, but can be found at plenty of farmer’s markets within London’s bounds. Of course I am referring to Prunus persica or the humble peach. Peaches are native to China, but have been a favourite stone fruit crop in Ontario since the 1880s. The deciduous trees are in the same family (Rosaece) as cherries and plums, the same subgenus (Amygdalus) as almonds, and are considered the same species as nectarines, their fuzz-less cousin. Blame it on a recessive allele, but outside of commercial growers and discerning fruit lovers, you are looking at virtually the same tree.
So what do those trees look like? Peach trees grow 3-5 metres tall and require full sun. They need well-drained soil and nitrogen-rich fertilizer to flourish. A peach tree’s leaves are long and narrow, with straight pinnate veins, and fine teeth along its length. Trees flower in early spring before the leaves unfurl. Fruit is not produced until the third year, but good news is that the trees are self-pollinating, therefore a single tree will net you a bumper crop in no time. Once your tree does start producing, it needs to be thinned in the spring to prevent underdeveloped fruit or branches being snapped off due to excessive weight from them. The care is worth it.
Now for the good stuff. The fruit of the peach tree has flesh ranging from yellow to white. It is sweet and firm, and juicy as all get out when they are ripe. There is a large woody pit in the centre of the fruit, which if eaten in large enough quantities can be harmful, due to the presence of cyanogenic glucoside (could break down into hydrogen cyanide gas – not good!). Who would want to eat the pit though with the tender flesh being so delicious! Peaches make for great pies, cobblers, jams, plus are excellent grilled, canned or poached. They are full of vitamin C, but a single peach claims only 37 calories to your daily intake.
If you are thinking about trying your hand at growing your own tree, some of the varieties available are;
– Harrow Diamond, Garnet Beauty, Redhaven, Reliance*, Harken, Vivid, Harrow Fair™ , Harrow Beauty, Loring, Vollie™, Cresthaven ◊
◊ Cultivars available as per Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs website – http://ow.ly/zeQzl
The only downfall of heavenly peaches are that they continue to ripen once picked, therefore need to be eaten with a few days of being picked, trees only live from 10 to 20 years, they are susceptible to leaf curl, brown rot, and a variety of moths and mites, but worst of all, peaches are only available fresh from July through September. They will be available soon at farmer’s markets across Southern Ontario, so start gathering your recipes!
Incidentally, of the two categories of peaches, in freestones the flesh comes easily away from the pit, while clingstones the flesh slings tightly. Which are your favourite?