Just peachy

Area farms fete summer’s ‘favorite fruit’

By Keith Loria, Special Writer
   Summertime in New Jersey means beaches and barbecues to most, but what many others look forward to is picking that perfect peach off one of the thousands of peach trees growing in the Garden State.
   Biting into one of those pinkish golden globes with its juices running down your hand and chin is one of the things that scream summer in New Jersey.
   New Jersey’s peaches grow on 5,500 acres in 92 orchards throughout the state, valued at approximately $36 million on the wholesale market. That’s fourth in the nation in peach production after California, Georgia and South Carolina.
   Still, it seems that many people aren’t aware of all the pros that peaches have and what the crop means to the area. That’s why in 2009 the New Jersey Peach Promotion Council launched the first of its Peach Parties, a series of events that would take place among the orchards in the state.
   ”The New Jersey Peach Promotion Council hears from farmers market peach purveyors that (the number of) customers for ‘summer’s favorite fruit’ is growing, as is customer knowledge of the virtues of buying local,” says Pegi Adam, communication consulting director for the New Jersey Peach Promotion Council in Clayton. “Can we attribute these increases to our special promotions at farmers markets? No proof, but we like to think they’re making a contribution.”
   Prior to that year, the PPC had been holding media days and inviting journalists to come to a selected peach orchard to learn about the state’s peach industry. When the availability of journalists started shrinking along with media budgets, it needed a new plan to get the word out. The Peach Parties have been going strong ever since, expanding from 18 in 2009 to 35 in 2013, at farmers markets, restaurants, orchards, and supermarkets.
   ”They’ve served to educate the buying public on the benefits of buying locally grown peaches over those that are shipped in from the south or California,” Ms. Adam says. “Peaches are delicate fruits. They must be picked ripe (while still hard, but with good reddish color overlying yellow (or white in white peaches), not green. They don’t do well in long-distance shipping. Jersey peaches are picked and shipped within a day, retaining their sugars and texture.”
   Ms. Adam says that each orchard can choose how it wants to celebrate with the goal being to educate and promote peaches. For example, Chatham Borough crowns its own peach queens; the Alstede Farms Peach Festival features pick-your-own peaches; Collingswood Farmers Market holds a peach-cooking demonstration and kick-off to its three-night restaurant promotion of peach menus; and West Windsor holds a “little chefs” cooking lesson.
   There’s plenty of exciting peach programs in our area to celebrate the fifth annual event, as well.
   Terhune Orchards will be holding its annual “Everything Peach” festival and canning workshop the weekend of Aug. 3-4 at 330 Cold Soil Road, Princeton.
   Things start off with a 10 a.m. workshop run by owner Pam Mount on canning and preserving peaches.
   ”Peaches are wonderful and we all wait all year for them but they don’t last,” Tannwen Mount says. “So Pam shares all of her secrets on how to can them and have this great summer taste in the winter.”
   The day also includes live music, children’s games, wagon rides, pony rides and lots of tasty peach treats including peach salsa, muffins and cobbler. Adults can enjoy the orchards’ award-winning Just Peachy wine and summer peach sangria.
   ”It’s going to be a fruity food and wine weekend,” Tannwen Mount says. “A local chef will be using our summer harvest ingredients and preparing tastings for visitors, including using peaches. That’s something we haven’t done before and we are all excited about that.”
   The Jamesburg Farmers Market gets into the act on Aug. 10 with a host of peach-themed events and peach tastings at Veterans’ Park in Jamesburg.
   On Aug. 17, the Burlington County Farmers’ Market at 500 Centerton Road, Moorestown, will hold its first Peach Party with vendors offering peaches, treats, recipes and much more. That same say, the Trenton Farmers Market at 960 Spruce St., Lawrence, is hosting peach tastings, giveaways, and naming a Peach Queen.
   On Aug. 4, a peach pie contest will be held at Terhune Orchards. This will be judged at 1 p.m. and it is one of nine contests being held throughout the state by the PPC.
   ”We’re inviting the public to bake and submit peach pies and cobblers to nine farmers markets throughout the state in our Perfect Peach Pie contest, which will be judged by professional chefs,” Ms. Adam says. “The winners at each market will go on to compete for two grand prizes: an overnight with dinner for two at choice of Atlantic City or Cape May.”
   PPC is reaching out to the public more than ever this year via a big social media push, including a presence on Facebook, Twitter and a comprehensive website. It is also offering a “Peach Perfect Peach” video, available on jerseypeaches.com