Stone Free

September 1, 2013

CSA members almost everywhere are at the peak moment about now, so it’s not inappropriate to have some later summer blogs that just flat out lay back and relish the splendor of proper fruits and vegetables. We’ve generally done tomatoes here in the Thornapple blog, and ‘tis indeed the case that hardly anything surpasses the homegrown tomato in consolidating and intensifying all of God’s glories in a manner that can be appreciated by the human form. But there are lots of other wonders, too, and there’s one in particular that I have in mind this Labor Day Weekend: Peaches.

We’ve missed peaches for two years running in Michigan. I know that last year it was that too-early burst of warm weather back in February that deceived our fruit trees into running the sap a bit too soon, only to be blasted by a more typical run of freezing temperature in March. All of our fruit crops suffered. The year before, there was fruit but it was all early. Apparently the peaches really need that frosty winter weather to set up well—something that may explain why the Southern states most known for peach production are really suffering in an era of climate change. But don’t take it from me. When it comes to authentic agronomic know-how, I’m positioned so that I can occasionally pass along some words of wisdom from an a real-life practicing farmer or from an agricultural scientist. In actual fact I’m clueless when it comes to why there weren’t any peaches in 2011.

I was reminded that it had been two years since Thornapple CSAers (my word processer thinks I’m trying to spell Caesars, but no dice, Chucko) had any of those sensational organic white flesh peaches from up north. Now to be clear about the CSA way, these are not part of the regular share. Rather Jane Bush buys a truckload and puts them in the Appleschram cooler, from whence cases are available for CSA members to purchase. The CSA helps people partner up, as for reasons unclear to me, most normal people doubt their ability to consume an entire case of peaches. I’m reminded of an episode in The Grapes of Wrath where the Joad children get a case of the skitters from eating too many peaches, but I can assure you based on personal experience that an adult can easily consume a half dozen peaches every day without adverse effect. That works out to half a case a week or thereabouts, so I don’t count fear of the skitters as a legitimate reason for buying less than a case of peaches at a time.

You can eat peaches however you want, but I’ve been waiting until they are just barely soft, then I run a knife around the longitudinal diameter and pull the halves apart. These being freestone peaches, the pit comes right out and you are left with two luscious peach halves to slurp down. If you exhibit a high degree of self-control, you can measure it out through six or eight bites.

Which brings me to this week’s parting thought. People of my generational orientation will recall a tunefull ditty of some decades back that was accompanied by the following lyric:

Everyday in the week I'm in a different city
 If my stay's too long people try to pull me down
 They talk about me like a dog, talkin' about the clothes I wear
 But they don't realize they're the ones who's square
Hey, and that's why
 You can't hold me down
 I don't want to be down
 I gotta move on
Stone free, do what I please
 Stone free, to ride the breeze
 Stone free, I can't stay
 I got to, got to, got to get away


And so I ask you, do you think Jimi Hendrix was singing about peaches?


Paul B. Thompson holds the W.K. Kellogg Chair in Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University