Six organically farmed acres outside of Ashland are a paradise for peaches, says Scott McGuire.
"To me, being in an orchard is heaven," says the Rogue River resident while picking Red Havens at Valley View Orchard.
The orchard's other varieties — Elberta and Sweet Sue — would likely bring him back over the next month, says McGuire, a permaculture instructor and advocate for local food systems.
"Freeze, dry, can — all of the above," says McGuire of his plans for the fruit.
Plenty of high-quality peaches can be had this year, both for preserving and eating fresh. Orchardists whose pears are plagued by fire blight have peaches as a silver lining.
"It doesn't get any better than it does this year for peaches," says Talent orchardist Ron Meyer.
Meyer's peaches and others grown locally are sold almost exclusively in Rogue Valley markets. And because the fruit isn't transported long distances, orchardists grow flavorful peaches rather than sturdy ones, says Meyer, whose eight acres fill farm stands around the valley, primarily Seven Oaks in Central Point.
With a half-dozen varieties coming on through the first of September, the region's peach crop has risen in demand over recent years, says Meyer. Common varieties include '49ers — typically used in Harry & David gift boxes — Cresthaven, Glohaven, Sierra Lady and Autumn Red, one of the latest to ripen.
"They come one right after the other," says Meyer.
Only about 100 local acres of peaches are commercially grown, overshadowed by thousands of acres of pears. Whereas pears are suited to heavier, clay soils, stone fruits thrive in some of the valley's rockier, better-drained parcels.
Several smaller peach orchards sell their crops at farmers markets, and customers can U-pick at Valley View and Sugar Plum Acres near Phoenix.
Valley View's peach prices are $2 per pound U-pick with a 25-cent per-pound discount for 15 pounds or more. The farm store sells picked peaches for $2.50 pound. Call 541-488-2840 for fruit availability and hours, usually from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays, until about 5 p.m. weekends.
See www.sugarplumacres.info or call 541-535-1563 for updates on its crop.
Meyer's orchard on Tarry Lane sells several grades and varieties directly to the public, as well as Central Point's Beebe Farms on Beebe Road.
Updated: Old Stage Farm at 972 Old Stage Road has tree-ripened peaches. Call 541-245-0503
A perfect peach should have no green to its golden color, which is a sign of maturity and built-up sugars inside the fruit. The red blush on a peach — and its fuzz — comes from genetics, not ripeness.
Truly ripe peaches can be smelled from across the room. Softness is least important in a peach because firm peaches will ripen on the counter in a few days. So it's better to buy them a bit firm, rather than soft and bruised.
Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email email@example.com.