PEACHES: SUMMER RITE OF PASSAGE

We're enjoying our summer rite of passage:  peaches.  Last week Teresa and contacted the orchard near Harrisonburg (30 miles north of us) to order our peaches--about 10 bushels for us and others.

We scavenged some boxes and headed up to Showalter's orchard.  Anticipating something as special as fresh tree-ripened peaches is hard to explain.  Each summer we do the phone call and trek and each summer we get beautiful, tasty peaches.  Only twice have they had a complete crop failure; otherwise, it's peach heaven.

Backing up to the yawning garage door with Tonka (our little Ford Ranger pickup) the farm coziness envelopes us.  Vegetables and trees grow right up to the parking area.  This ain't Wal-Mart.  It's a nest of smells and sensory delight.

After some quick howdy-dos, we get down to the business of transferring the peaches into our boxes.  The Showalters dutifully, like a setting hen, watch over the proceedings and pluck out anything with a blemish, replacing it with more sound fruit from another box nearby.  Within a half hour, the transfer complete and invoice paid, Teresa and I head home with our bounty.

I've selected a prime peach for the journey home and push it into my face like a soft children's toy.  Juice runs and I don't care.  Summer is now here, and complete.  This year's crop is spectacular--large and juicy.  We come home and divvy the boxes to all the people who wanted to piggyback on our trip.  That's right; spread the joy.

Teresa paws through all of our boxes, separating almost ripe from less ripe.  Since last week, she's canned more than 50 quarts of peaches.  It looks like one more processing go and we'll be done for the year.  As I tote them to the basement storage shelves, I think about winter, snow, bountiful suppers and . . . summer peaches.  Does it take some effort to do this?  Yes.

Is it worth the effort?  Yes.  If you've never eaten fresh tree-ripened peaches, or your own jar-canned fruit, you haven't lived.  Food is life.  Food is a great investment.  For us, the peach trip is just one of our summer rites of passage.  Until that trip, we haven't experienced summer's fullness.  Thank you, Showalters, and thank you, peaches.  Yum.  I'll remember you when the snow flies.

What is one of your summer food rites of passage?