By MICHELLE SCHMIDT
But before the days of social media, people went to the orchard to get fruit. Lots of it. Enough that, once canned, would provide them with fruit through the winter. Grapes, after all, have not always been shipped in from Chile in the middle of winter.
But whether you visit the orchard to make memories or to make pies, Kari Wilson of Wilson Banner Ranch west of Clarkston says that u-pick — picking your own fruit instead of buying it already harvested — connects people with their food and the farmers who grow it.
“People want to do u-pick because it’s nostalgic,” said Wilson.
People are now up to four generations off the farm, she says, which means that a lot of kids — and even their parents — aren’t aware of all that goes into producing the fruit they buy at the grocery store. A visit to a farm is deliciously educational.
“The kids can come and see what real fruit tastes like,” said Wilson. “And they can understand how much work it is.”
But a bite into a farm fresh peach will remind you that it’s worth it. A peach in California needs to be picked green to make it to the store in an edible state. So it’s no wonder these peaches taste different from those fresh off the tree.
“After they’re picked, they soften — they basically begin rotting,” said Wilson.
She explains that stone fruits — fruits with a pit, like peaches, nectarines and plums — once picked are as sweet as they’re going to be.
Longtime valley residents remember the days when the Lewiston Orchards were just that — fields of fruit trees. But when the fruit processing plants sprouted up in the Yakima valley, it was no longer economically viable to grow fruit and as the trees came down, roads, homes and businesses took their place.
Many people choose to pick their own fruit because traditionally it has been offered at a discount. After all, they were providing their own labor. But with fewer trees to pick from and the increased costs for farms in supervision, inadvertent damage and, in the lawsuit era, increased insurance premiums, local orchards open for u-pickers are now few.
At Wilson Banner Ranch, the cost of picking your own fruit varies by how much of it you pick. A sack of peaches might be fun to pick, but it will come at full market price. But for those loading up 20 pound boxes for preserving can get fruit at wholesale prices. Wilson says they do what they can to make eating local affordable.
When you’re picking that quantity, it’s important to know what you will do with what you’ve picked (see cooking and serving ideas below).
The Flaming Fury peaches ripe this weekend are a strongly flavored, fibrous peach perfect for pies, jams, freezing and shakes. They are clingstone, which means the fruit typically needs to be cut away from the pit. For those looking to can, wait for the Elberta peaches at the end of August or O’Henry peaches in mid-September.
Schmidt can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 305-4578.
if you go
WHAT: U-pick Flaming Fury Peaches
WHEN: 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Thursday, July 25, through Saturday, July 27
WHERE: Wilson Banner Ranch, 16397 U.S. Highway 12, Clarkston
COST: U-pick fruit runs $2 to $3 per pound, depending on the amount you pick
For later u-pick peaches, nectarines and pears, check the Wilson Banner Ranch Facebook page. Bishop’s Orchard in Garfield offers u-pick apples and pears, usually beginning after Labor Day and running through October. Check www.bishop-orchard.com to find out more.
When you have a couple of 20-pound boxes of peaches, you have options. Here are a few ideas Kari Wilson shared beyond simply biting into this juicy summertime snack:
– Grill them. Peel your peach, dip it in brown sugar and grill it whole; it’s a perfect finish to a steak dinner.
– Wake up to them. Start your day with nutrients, fiber and natural sugar by adding peaches to cold or hot cereal, in homemade granola bars or smoothies.
– Think beyond dessert. Peaches don’t just belong in pies and cobblers. They star in savory dishes as well, pairing nicely with curries, stir-fries, chicken and pork. Add them to salad and forget the dressing.
– Save them for later. Nothing is quite like biting into a peach in the middle of January. Not a canner? Freeze peach slices on a baking sheet and bag them later. Or better, become a canner. Canning classes will be offered through the Washington State University Extension office in mid-August.