When seasons are fleeting, revel in every turn.
- There are many fruit farms in Ontario. Try one near you, or find one that sells your favourite fruit.
- If you’re in the Niagara region, go ahead and make a trip of it. There are lots of fantastic sights to see, from Niagara Falls to old-growth forests aside turquoise rivers and waterfalls under which you just might be able to get wet – not to mention vineyards galore, theatre, and more.
- Click here for map.
One of the wonderful things about having four seasons is getting to experience the same places in four entirely different ways. It can also be a bit maddening – your favourite weather only lasts for part of the year. And in this part of the world you’re never quite guaranteed how any season will turn out. This summer, for example, has been typically hot and humid, but it’s been abnormally dry – so while it’s beautiful weather to be outside, fields are scorched and yellow, and trees are turning colour early.
That said, if you let it in, the four seasons can help you savour things while they last. The spring cherry blossoms, for example. Winter days brimming with peace. Sunlight gushing through bare branches and the power of spring runoff.
And, lasting for most of the summer, there’s peach season. Glorious, delicious peach season.
Grocery stores will carry rock-hard yellowish peaches for a few weeks, but if you have access to a farmer’s market, their season lasts from July through September. In fact, last October I was still getting peaches – no longer great for eating, but perfect for cobblers, preserves, and pies.
Maybe peaches aren’t for you. Who knows why, but some people just don’t dig em. Maybe, like me, you love them to perhaps an unhealthy degree. Regardless, I would paraphrase what someone very close to me likes to say about how to truly relish seasonal food, no matter what you love: Enjoy it until you’re sick of it, and then miss it for the rest of the year.
With food, I’ve found this works beautifully. Peach season lasts until fig season (and, if you’re lucky enough to find them in these parts, pawpaw season), and then come the fresh apples. Then it’s time for all the fall and winter squashes (read: pumpkin pie and butternut squash soup). Then comes pomegranate season – those delicious, cheery little rubies that pop in your mouth. In midwinter come all the soups and stews that are too hot and heavy for the warm seasons, but just right on cold nights. In spring come asparagus, rhubarb, and fresh peas warm from the sun. Then it’s time for strawberries, raspberries, and after the strawberry moon, ever so fleetingly, cherry season. And then we’re back to peaches.
Each of those tastes is unique, marvellous, and slightly (eg. apples) to deeply (eg. peaches) disappointing if you buy them shipped in from far away and out of season.
So, I thought if I’m going to enjoy them until I’m sick of them, why not gorge? And why not prepare for winter by freezing some for the long cold months. They don’t taste the same, no, yet freezing is the best way to lock in nutrition for those of us who don’t get fresh local produce all year. And frozen peaches are delicious in home-made yogurt, pies, and ice cream.
And so it was that after a trip to Short Hills Provincial Park hunting for pawpaw trees (more on that another time) I stopped at a peach farm in nearby Vineland. Driving through the countryside I saw row upon row upon row of peach, cherry, and plum trees. I quite enjoy watching starlight fall on leaves and ripen my food – and thinking of it that way as I watch it happen.
At the Peach Country Farm Market, where we stopped, I drank in the perfume of my favourite summertime fruits.
They had bunches of perfect peaches on display, as well as preserves, ice cream, and other treats, but I was more excited by the seven-litre baskets of their “second run” peaches. These fruit were odd sizes, had small blemishes, but were perfectly ripe and deeply discounted.
Five baskets later we were on our way home. (The staff suggested that if, like me, you intend to buy in bulk, you can call ahead to assure availability.)
Many went to immediate use, scarfed down throughout the day. But the majority were washed and sliced, and laid out on parchment paper on cookie trays.
Then I put them in our stand-up freezer (a chest freezer can work just as well, and for smaller quantities a fridge freezer is more than adequate) and left them.
Once they were ice cold and rock-hard, I took them out and assembled them in freezer bags. Only when the snow begins falling and the fresh local fruit stops coming will I start thawing them and having them with yogurt, granola, or ice cream. Little slices of summer starlight in winter.
This reminder, as I slice peaches, sweating and shirtless on a scorching summer afternoon, that I’m doing this because winter will come again, leaves me a bit melancholy. But only for a moment. I am, at the same time, reminded to enjoy summer – just like peach season – while it lasts, to enjoy it until I’m sick of it; and that when the time comes I’ll try to enjoy winter while it lasts too. Because if winter is on its way, then so is autumn, so is spring, and so is summer again, and each has experiences to relish.
In the interim, I will eat peaches until I’m sick of them and smile all the while.