I’m from California, so I think it fair of me to ask. Why is it that it seems, after sifting through my unofficial survey, that people from California tend to stay in California, or the west in general, rarely to never traveling east? In fact, when questioned, ponder as to why they should ever do so? While, most people surveyed from the east coast have traveled west. This is a chin scratcher.
When I’m asked the simple question, “What are your plans this summer?” my response is always, “Spending July in Canada, on Lake Erie.” It’s as if I’ve suddenly become an alien creature and we are no longer speakng the same language. So I go on to explain, “The lake is beautiful and warm, it’s near Niagara Falls, the Niagara Fruit Belt, wine country and the Shaw Festival….” it’s somewhat redeeming but still, I can clearly see, unfathomable.
This is okay. It can be my secret. Except for the peaches. Everyone should know about the peaches. And eat one perfectly picked, when you can smell that it’s ready.
How do you explain it? A bad peach, one that’s traveled great distances, refrigerated, and mealy because of it, and therefore has limited flavor is simply bad. But a Niagara peach, it’s youth wrapped in a luxurious, furry canvas. A unification of flavor and fragrance that is sublime. I feel like a Greek Goddess when I bite into one. At least until the juice dribbles down my chin.
Peaches and other soft fruit have been grown in the Niagara region of Ontario since the 1700′s, becoming an important economic crop by the late 1700′s. Little Peach and Peach Yellow viruses struck in the late 1800′s and many orchards were cut and replanted as vineyards. In turn, other important crops, such as asparagus, were hit with disease and around 1940 governmental agencies encouraged replanting with peaches.
Warm, sandy soils along with air temperatures moderated by and breezes provided by Lake Erie and Lake Ontario make it ideal for growing stone fruit and most other agricultural crops, including grapes (not unlike California for it’s own geographical reasons). In recent years the abundance found here has spawned a local food movement, drawing foodies, a surge of cookbooks, 100 mile radius restaurants and all the other perks of locally grown food.
It may may be worthwhile to travel to Southern Ontario in summer, no matter where you may be coming from, simply for the peaches.
*Peach trees grow best in sandy to gravelly soil in regions where temperatures drop below 40F for some weeks. Like apples, they grow in warmer climates but with less flavor. Plant and grow as you would apples. However, they tend to do best on north facing slopes (blooms come later thus avoiding frost) and with plenty of air circulation. When pruning, remember fruit is borne on wood from the previous year. Choose from tried and true local varieties and plant in spring.