Picking Peaches in Penticton
One of my fondest childhood memories is of our dad driving us to Penticton in the middle of the summer to pick peaches. It would be sweltering hot in the Okanagan, we would roll the windows all the way down in the car but the backs of our legs would still stick to the seat, and the wind that whipped in through the car windows wasn’t any cooler than heat from a furnace but it was a small price to pay for a taste of the big, plump and juicy peaches only available deep in the Okanagan.
I have no idea why I found U-Pick farms to be so fun when I was little. Armed with empty buckets, my brother and I would don our sunhats, put sunscreen on our little noses and spend hours picking peaches right off the trees under the sun in Penticton. It didn’t even occur to us that this was considered labour for farmers. To us, it was just so incredibly fun to run up and down the peach tree groves, fill our buckets with ripe, blushing peaches, and get our hands sticky with peach juice. The ground would be littered with rotten peaches that had fallen off the trees and we had to dodge these as we ran, our shoes were always covered in juice, dirt and grass after these peach picking adventures. Some of these U-Pick farms are still open today, check them out here.
To this day, I still love peaches. Especially, ice cold from the fridge on a hot summer day. It’s rare to find a fruit as beautiful and juicy and sweet as peaches. Just their fuzzy, velvety skins are interesting, encasing lush, moist flesh inside. The peach skin is such a contrast from the soft, smooth and sweet flesh. I’m sure this was the inspiration for one of my favourite gummy candies, Maynard’s fuzzy peaches.
The colour of peaches on the outside and inside is amazing, a mix of hues fading from deep pinks to nude, it’s as if the fruit is blushing. There is certainly something sensual about peaches and their beauty, sweet taste and the striking blossoms that they spring from on peach trees has immortalized them in Chinese folklore and mythology. In Chinese culture, peaches symbolize longevity and immortality. In paintings, the Eight Chinese Immortals are often depicted as receiving peaches to eat from their attendants.
There’s just something special and enchanting about peaches. Their punch of colour makes any fruit bowl look magnificent, and juice from a peach adds that certain sweet flavour level that is just sweet enough to be sophisticated but not too sweet as to overtake other flavours. The peach is a great flavour dance partner, it pushes and gives to enhance other flavours. For example, I can’t imagine my favourite cocktail, the bellini without peach puree, drawing out the sweetness in the champagne and downplaying the fizzy kick.
Maybe because it seems like peaches only come around once a year like pumpkins. There is something magical about peaches and as a child, one of my favourite books was Roald Dahl‘s James and the Giant Peach. Not only did James eat a giant peach from the inside out but he traveled around the world inside it, (first floating across the English Chanel, then flying, the peach being pulled across the sky by seagulls attached to the fruit with silken string weaved by Jame’s travel mate, the Spider) and as a kid, I couldn’t imagine a better way to travel the world. I love the below clip from the movie when James and his giant insect friends are feasting on the juicy peach flesh during their travels.