Eat a peach
Big isn’t better, but the season is now for fuzzy fruits and more
Past fields of bursting sunflowers and down a county road is Impossible Acres in West Davis, just 4 scant miles from its downtown. My family and friends arrived there because I’d heard we could pick peaches. And a good peach is what I’ve been craving ever since the calendar flipped to July.
I have one of those golden childhood memories of picking peaches with my mom at a pick-your-own farm in Missouri, where the yellow fruits were the size of my fist, and their fuzzy skins nearly burst. I don’t remember what Mom made with the fruit, but I do remember eating them at that farm, standing in the shade of peach-tree branches, juice dripping down my chin and neck, so good I licked the palms of my hands to get every bit of stickiness into my mouth.
But California isn’t Missouri. And I’m still learning what grows here. So when I heard the peach season in Yolo County is late June through early August, I thought the first week of July might satisfy my craving.
Others must have thought the same: Impossible Acres is a popular little farm. When we arrived, about 15 couples and families also were there, slathering kids up with sunscreen in the parking lot and affixing sun hats.
The young woman at the entrance gave us the lay of the land, including a photocopy of a hand-drawn map. She pointed out where the berries were—marionberries, raspberries, boysenberries, olallieberries—and also mentioned that berries had a rough year due to fickle weather. The peaches are past the cherry trees and rows of apricots and plums. We got a couple of flat boxes to fill, and we were off.
The apricot trees were loaded with fruits begging to be picked, and we did grab a few. But we moved quickly onward. (Note to parents and those who care for their feet: Don’t wear sandals like I did, because some weeds along the path are prickly.)
We got to the peaches, which were nice: medium-sized, sweet, with several ripe and ready. The nearby nectarines were just as good, too, though there were fewer of them. We filled our boxes, satisfied that we had enough to make the tasty peach shortcake and peach-glazed pork chops I’d been fantasizing about, as well as plenty left to pop into our mouths.
But at first, I admit to being disappointed. Were the peaches of my dreams not suited to the Sacramento Valley?
After talking with Fred Manas, owner of nearby peach orchard Manas Ranch in Yolo County, it turns out I was just impatient.
“We have friends from Georgia that moved here, and they say [there’s] nothing like my peaches here,” Manas said.
The peach season, he said, runs from about mid-June through mid-October, although it varies for each variety. And there is a tendency for bigger varieties to peak later in the summer, around August.
Manas wondered, however, why people fuss about big peaches.
“Big does not make it better,” he argued with the kindly insistence of a man who has spent more years than I’ve been alive growing and eating peaches.
Manas Ranch grows seven different varieties, varying from the smallish Cassie peach to the more robust O’Henry. So, if I want to stubbornly hold onto my vision of a giant peach, I need to wait a little longer.
As for that childhood memory of the peach farm with Mom: She told me later that we picked those peaches right before school started, which would have made it late August.
Back at Impossible Acres, somewhere between picking a plum and sucking the juice off my fingers, I was reminded that sometimes what you get isn’t quite what you set out for, but it can still be pretty sweet.