Took a ride around the farm this morning to check out the peaches that will be picked in the next few days. Here are some pictures - but they can't come close to capturing the sight of rows of ripe peaches hanging on the trees, or the aroma of the fruit, or the soft, fuzzy feel of a fat, round peach in your hand, warm from the morning sun. Had my breakfast while I was there and got all sticky from the juice running down my fingers. Are they sweet? Oh yes!! Peaches love the hot & sunny weather we've been having and the flavour is amazing. The colour is great too!
Along with the warm temperatures we've been experiencing very high humidity. Not only does this make it very difficult for working, it increases the insect & disease pressures. Despite careful monitoring of the orchards and timely spray applications, we have been losing a lot of fruit to rot & insect damage. The shelf life of the fruit is also reduced. A return to more seasonable temperatures would be a relief for everyone!
Peaches remain one of the most important crops here at Thiessen Farms. Our first peaches were planted in 1948 and we have had peaches on our farm ever since. Today we grow about 24 varieties to extend the season as long as possible with each kind ripe at a different time. The earliest peaches are harvested usually near the end of July (this year our first peaches were picked on July 12) and the last varieties finish around the middle of September. Each variety is picked 3 or 4 times, about 2 or 3 days between pickings depending on the weather. Peach pickers must carefully choose which fruit are mature & ripe. They are easily bruised and must be handled gently. We always try to pick our peaches tree-ripened for maximum flavour, colour & size. But it must be firm enough to withstand the processes of picking, packing and travelling to market and then still looking good enough to eat!
The heat & humidity this season make it all more difficult - the peaches can get soft before they are mature. Our first peaches were a little too soft we thought and showing some bruises at market. We were concerned about complaints, but instead we got mostly compliments on how great they tasted. This past week we were more satisfied with the peaches, but our customers thought they were too hard. It's always a challenge to get it right. Fortunately we have great peach pickers on our farm who do a fantastic job!
Here is a row of peach trees we planted this spring. They are growing well. Next spring we will remove any fruit from these trees to allow them to put their energy into growing bigger & stronger. The following year we will allow a small crop, and then a larger crop each year after that. Peach trees usually last 10 years or so and then are removed and the process starts again. Each year we replace 5-10% of our trees to keep the orchard healthy and continuously producing.