Carl White's Life in the Carolinas

Peach Pickin’ Time in the Carolinas
by Suzelle Sinclair
suzelle.sinclair@earthlink.net <mailto:suzelle.sinclair@earthlink.net>

“The ripest peach is highest on the tree.”
~James Whitcomb Riley

There is nothing quite as healing to the soul as a leisurely morning spent with a good long-time friend. I so enjoy spending time with my dear friend, Lyn. She is like a favorite pair of blue jeans. She goes with everything, and still fits perfectly after all these years. It is amazing how we seem to have a taste for the same things. This particular morning, it was crepes. Luckily for us, we were near the wonderful Penny Path Cafe and Crepe Shop at the infamous Reynolda Village in Winston-Salem. Perusing the extensive menu of sweet and savory crepes, this morning I had to choose the peach crepe, topped with house cream and drizzled with honey.

It is peach season and fresh Carolina peaches are a true treat this time of year. When most folks are asked to name a fruit grown in the Carolinas, the first fruit that comes to mind is the peach. It is even the state fruit of South Carolina. While peaches are abundant at the farmers markets and there are a number of peach festivals across the Carolinas, this day we headed out to a local orchard to pick our peaches.

As we savored our crepes and coffee, we made plans for peach season and calculated how many bushels we needed to pick. While delicious on their own, they also are a fabulous ingredient in many recipes. Lyn and I both enjoy cooking using old family recipes, trying new ones or making our own creations. Of course we will need to freeze several quarts for use throughout the year. Lyn’s husband, Mike, loves her fresh peach cobbler so she will definitely make one of those. I plan to can a few jars of spicy peach salsa. We both enjoy having peach preserves on hand. They are not only delicious throughout the year on hot biscuits, but they make wonderful gifts for friends and neighbors.

We marveled at the amazing versatility of peaches. They are equally at home in a Southern peach cobbler as they are in a French crepe or a spicy Mexican peach salsa. And who doesn’t like duck sauce on their egg rolls? When you consider the history of the peach, it is no surprise that it has an exceptional ability to blend nicely into so many different cultures.

While many folks think of the peach as a Carolina native, it is not. The peach tree actually has its roots in China, where it has a long history of being highly revered. It is mentioned in the Shijing, the oldest existing collection of Chinese poetry, dating from the 11th to 7th centuries BC, said to have been compiled by Confucius. The word “peach” translated into Chinese is “tao”. It is the most sacred plant of the Chinese Taoist and is considered to be a symbol of immortality. The peach traveled from China to Persia, then to Greece and then to the rest of Europe. It was introduced to North America by Spanish monks around St. Augustine, Florida in the mid-1500s. By 1600 they were wide-spread in the south. The Carolinas seemed to be a natural home for peach trees. They germinate easily and fruit heavily here. The English explorer and naturalist, John Lawson, wrote in 1700 that, “they make our land a wilderness of peach trees.” Even today, feral Prunus Persia are quite common appearing along roadsides throughout the Carolinas.

As Lyn and I enjoyed catching up over our crepes and coffee, we had a fascinating conversation about the many intriguing people we have met lately. These folks have recently moved here from across the county and around the world. Like the peach these newcomers bring a unique flavor to our community and enrich our culture.

As we left the cafe and headed out to pick our peaches, I smiled as I remembered the words to an old girl scout song, “make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.”
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Mama’s Busy Day Peach Cobbler

Ingredients
1 stick of butter
8 fresh ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced into wedges
1 cup self-rising flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup milk

Melt the butter in a baking dish. Mix together the flour, sugar, cinnamon and milk in a mixing bowl. Gently pour the mixture into the baking dish, do not stir into the butter. Layer the peach slices evenly into the baking dish. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on top. Bake at 425 degrees until the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Serve hot at top with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

CHARLOTTE WEATHER