Peaches, the passion of summer's fruits, are at their pinnacle. Dripping with flavor and sweetness, it's hard to deny their popularity. Drive by any roadside market and you'll see baskets brimming with the glow of Red Haven, Loring and other varieties grown in our area.
Lorings are grower Tom Crawley's favorite.
"I guess it's because they're freestone, and they're bigger than some other peaches. They're just really good," he says.
Crawley retired from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency 27 years ago and went into the peach business. He learned from his dad, who spent his life around peaches. Crawley has about eight acres filled with about 1,000 peach trees -- Red Havens, Elbertas, several varieties of white peaches, which he says many people prefer. And, of course, Lorings.
This year's harvest is good, he says, but different from last year's, when he started picking in early June. By the end of July, the crop was pretty well exhausted.
"I blamed that on global warming," he says.
This year, peaches came in a month later, and he says he doesn't know what to blame that on. But, he adds, they should last through the end of August.
"They may be just a bit smaller this year, but the flavor's all there."
Crawley's peach orchard is located at 16704 Andy Thomas Road in Sale Creek. If you're driving from Chattanooga, watch for signs along Highway 27 north of Sale Creek. From Dayton, Tenn., you'll see signs around Black Oak Ridge Road. Call before you go and you'll get a recording telling you what's available. The number is 332-1657.
According to pickyourown.org, certain peaches are good for freezing, while others are better left to cooking and canning. And, of course, if you get them at their ripest, they're all food for eating.
Here's a primer on peaches:
• Red Haven: A medium-sized fruit. Excellent for canning and freezing.
• Glo Haven: Large fruit with a highly colored skin, which is almost fuzzless. Superior for canning and freezing.
• Red Globe: A very large round peach. Excellent for fresh eating, canning or freezing.
• Early Elberta: The most-popular in our area. Large and excellent for fresh eating and canning.
• Elberta: Large, golden yellow fruit. Excellent for fresh eating and canning.
• J.H. Hale: Extra-large fruit great for shipping and canning. A very popular late peach.
• Loring: A freestone peach, meaning the flesh comes off the pit easily. Has a sweet flavor and is great for eating, freezing and canning.
• Sun High: Another freestone peach with a sweet flavor similar to the Loring. For eating, freezing and canning.
• Haven: A later freestone peach. Ideal for freezing and canning.
This recipe from busycooks.about.com is the trinity of summer flavors with fresh tomatoes, peaches and basil. Toss in some bacon and it becomes irresistible. It's sweet and salty, and the texture, with pasta cooked al dente, is an excellent combination. Serve this alongside grilled chicken or steak for your next gathering and see if there's any left when dinner is done. One recipe is enough for a six -- or four if your group loves the flavors of summer.
1 (16-ounce) package spaghetti or linguine
6 slices bacon
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half, or 3 large tomatoes, chopped
3 ripe peaches, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, if desired (fresh is best if you have it; if not, canned is OK)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook according to package directions until al dente. Meanwhile, cook bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels; crumble and set aside. Pour fat from pan; do not wipe out pan. Add olive oil, garlic and tomatoes and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until garlic is fragrant.
Drain pasta when done, reserve about 1/3 cup cooking water. Add pasta and peaches to pan; toss to coat. Add cooking water as needed to moisten pasta. Stir in bacon and basil, season to taste and top with cheese, if using, and serve immediately.