The buzz about peach fuzz
NH is a good place to grow Red Havens
By Lisa Brown firstname.lastname@example.org
You can’t judge a peach by its fuzz.
“The ones in the northeast seem to be fuzzier than the ones down south, and why? I wouldn’t be able to guess,” said Rob Larocque, farmer and owner of Carter Hill Orchard in Concord.
Larocque knows peaches. He’s been growing them for more than 35 years. If the skin of the peach near the stem looks like a seam, the peach may not be quite as juicy inside, which is something to keep in mind when selecting peaches. Also, according to Larocque, if the seam is prominent, the pit inside the peach could be split. Call it good consumer advice, or call it peach trivia.
It’s peach season. Drive up the hill to Carter Hill Orchard, 73 Carter Hill, Concord, and there’s a slight perfume in the air, a sweetness that reminds you of freshly baked peach cobbler or peach pie with a dollop of vanilla ice cream melting off to the side. From now until the end of September, peach-lovers can get their fill of peaches. Larocque grows more than 23 different peach varieties, including the most popular, Red Haven and other Havens, all of which are sweet and juicy.
“The early peaches are smaller and the ones just in now, they are the Paul Friday variety — he has a whole line of peaches…,” Larocque said. Paul Friday is a prominent peach breeder in Michigan. He has developed a variety of peaches around the Red Haven peach, which is considered by many growers to be the premiere of the peaches. (Paul Friday peaches are sometimes called Flamin’ Fury peaches.)
The Red Haven “is the staple and it’s beginning to ripen now,” Larocque said. Its fruit is almost free from fuzz, medium-sized and noted for its all-over reddish orange color. It’s a juicy peach.
“This year the Red Haven is a little earlier than normal,” Larocque said.
On a typical day during peach season, Larocque’s crew will hand pick 1,500 to 2,000 pounds of peaches every other day.
“We pick them a little hard and then they will ripen,” Larocque said. Even though Carter Hill Orchard has acres full of peach trees, all the peaches picked stay at the farm stand. Larocque says there is enough local demand for his peaches that he doesn’t have to worry about supplying other stores. Growing peaches in New Hampshire has become more profitable to farmers as the types of peaches available to grow have become hardier and more freeze-resistant.
“It’s worth taking that chance [of losing a crop to a freeze] because more often than not you are going to get a peach crop,” Larocque said.
According to Larocque, most New Hampshire farmers can get up to a dollar more per pound for peaches than they can for apples.
“Before [Red Havens] we just had the older varieties, and now with the Red Havens and the Haven varieties, they can be planted and are hardy enough for the winter,” Larocque said.
While it is true you can find good peaches in the grocery store, chances are good you are not buying a fresh peach.
“A farm stand is going to pick what is ready that day, or [within] a day or two of being ready to be eaten,” Larocque said. “In a grocery store they would have had to pick them harder for shelf life, which means they are picked a week to ten days [earlier]; you’re taking your chances of the sugar content being there.”
Rob Larocque laughs when asked for a good recipe for peach cobbler.
“Everybody’s mother’s recipe is the best.” Here then, is a recipe adapted from the one used by his wife, Annette Larocque.
Hint: Before peeling peaches, soak them first in hot water for a couple of minutes. This will loosen the skin and it will peel right off.
1 1/2 cups sugar (divide)
6 tbsp. melted margarine (divide)
1 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sliced peaches (about three)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Butter 9 x 9 pan.
Mix together 1 cup sugar, flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, stir 3 tablespoons of margarine with 1/2 cup milk and mix until creamy. Add to dry ingredients and pour into pan. Add the sliced peaches over the batter. Sprinkle 1/2 cup sugar on top and pour on 3 tablespoons of melted butter. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes.