Just Peachy

Grown at local farms, summer’s best stone fruit is ripe for picking this month.

With its explosion of sweet juice and delicious flavor, nothing sums up summer quite like a perfectly ripe peach. Luckily, Pennsylvania has plenty of orchards (the state is ranked among the nation’s top-10 peach producers), and the first harvest begins in mid-July.

Locally, Red Haven is one of the first available varieties. It was originally developed in Michigan and is still a quality standard for yellow peaches, with an intoxicating fragrance and creamy mouthfeel. But this is just one of thousands of recognized peaches, which come in many varieties: The main categories are clingstone and freestone. The fruit may be brilliant pink, deep red, burnished gold or blushing white with interior flesh that’s white, pale pink or golden.

We’ve come to expect big, sweet peaches for summer eating. But when peaches originated in China thousands of years ago, the fruit was small, sour and very fuzzy. Through breeding, varieties improved, and soon, the peach was cultivated in Persia then taken to ancient Rome and the remainder of Europe. In the United States, Spaniards planted the first orchard in Florida in 1565, and shortly after, the fruit was adopted and widely planted by Native Americans and colonists.

In previous centuries, peaches were especially valuable because they made excellent jam and responded well to home-canning; today’s slow-food movement and its enthusiasm for preserving (for fun ideas, visit foodinjars.com) gives new reasons to work with peaches in the kitchen.

Because ripe, fresh peaches are fragile and prone to bruising and damage, the shorter the journey from tree branch to your hand, the better. If you buy from a local farm, there are many benefits: Fruit can stay on the branch until peak harvest time, since it doesn’t have to be shipped far. And trees are kept healthy through integrated pest management (as opposed to routine chemical spraying).

Many western Pennsylvanian farmers know more than we could ever imagine about how to select the ripest peaches. So, why not rely on them? Take a short road trip to a local farm stand, or schedule a visit to a local farmers market and bring home luscious, homegrown fruit.

Easy Recipe: Sliced, Grilled Peaches

Eating this easy dessert is the perfect way to end a summer meal. Our recipe calls for sprinkling a cinnamon and brown-sugar mixture on the peaches, but experimenting with other spices—such as cardamom or ground ginger—can also yield delicious results.

Slice four fresh, ripe peaches along the seam (all the way around), gently twist in half and remove the pit. In a small bowl, combine two tablespoons of brown sugar and one-half teaspoon of cinnamon. Lightly brush canola oil onto the peaches’ cut sides. Place peaches cut-side down on a hot grill until brown and caramelized (or until grill marks appear), which should take between three and four minutes. Brush tops with oil, turn over and set aside. Sprinkle cut sides with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Cover grill, and cook until sugar is melted and fruit is tender, which should take between 10 and 15 minutes. To serve, top with vanilla ice cream—or for something different, top with crème fraîche and fresh thyme or lavender. Serves four.

Peach Faux Pas

If you ask for “Chambersburg peaches” when you shop, make sure you have your facts straight. To start, Chambersburg is a city in central Pennsylvania, not a peach variety. To request Chambersburg peaches is to ask for peaches that were grown about 160 miles from Pittsburgh.

The types of peaches grown by Chambersburg farmers—Red Haven, for example—are the same kinds grown by local farmers. Now that you know the truth, you’ll never make the faux pas of asking a local peach farmer for Chambersburg peaches.

Note: You will see signs advertising “Chambersburg peaches” in front of many regional grocery stores. Check the sticker on the fruit to ensure that it doesn’t say “Georgia.” (It does happen.)

Cheat Sheet: Where to Buy a Bushel

Use this cheat sheet to find delicious, Pennsylvania-grown peaches in mid-July. If you want to can or preserve your fruit, call the farm in advance because most places will sell peaches by the pound, bushel or half bushel.

Kaelin Farms

It’s great to buy peaches from this family-owned, 140-acre farm in Franklin Park. The orchard contains more than 850 trees and includes plenty of peach varieties like the Red Haven, a regional favorite. Shop for fruit at the homey, old-fashioned Kaelin Farm Market, which also offers a tempting array of peach treats such as homemade crumb-topped peach pies (which sell out quickly on weekends, so call ahead if your heart is set on one). Other choices include fresh peach smoothies, milkshakes and sundaes.

2547 Brandt School Road, Franklin Park (take exit 73 off I-79 and follow signs); 724/935-6780.

McConnells’ Farm

Owned and operated by nine generations of the McConnell family throughout the centuries—with a founding date of 1787, it’s the oldest farm operated by a single family west of the Allegheny Mountains—this spot specializes in peaches. The 200-acre farm boasts more than 4,000 peach trees of 40-plus varieties, ranging from Red Haven to Glowing Star or Jersey Glo, which ripen later and carry the season through September. Shop for fruit and homemade peach jam at the farm market, or find the McConnells’ Farm stand at several local farmers markets, including East Liberty (Mondays) and Sewickley (Saturdays).

294 New Bethlehem Church Road, Aliquippa; 724/375-9568, mcconnellsfarm.com.

McGinnis Sisters

This isn’t a farm, but rather, a local, family-owned shop with three locations in the region. Yet Pennsylvania-grown peaches are especially important to its success: When Elwood McGinnis, the store’s founder, attended a seminar in the 1970s about Pennsylvania peach farms, he met the Chambersburg and Gettysburg area farmers who continue to supply the McGinnis Sisters stores. During the season, the company’s produce buyer drives to the farms twice a week to pick up the crop. The stores now can the same peaches they sell fresh throughout the season, which are available year-round. During summer, the store bakeries offer freshly baked pies and peach cobblers.

Monroeville: 4311 Northern Pike, 412/858-7000; Brentwood: 3825 Saw Mill Run Blvd., 412/882-6400; Adams Township: 700 Adams Shoppes, 724/779-1212; mcginnis-sisters.com.

 

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in August

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in August

The month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Downtown Pittsburgh is booming. The Golden Triangle has grown in ways that previous generations may never have envisioned, and the perception of the neighborhood at the heart of Pittsburgh is changing rapidly –– for the better.
And The Winner Is....

And The Winner Is....

Meet the top vote getter in our 2016 Cutest Pet Contest.
The Region's Top Dentists 2016

The Region's Top Dentists 2016

Our latest list includes 368 topDentists in eight specialities from around the region.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

ReplayFX Turns Convention Center Into Giant Arcade

ReplayFX Turns Convention Center Into Giant Arcade

The second annual gaming festival at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center brings 8-bits of weekend fun.
Environmental Art Project to Light Up Pittsburgh Bridge for the Holidays

Environmental Art Project to Light Up Pittsburgh Bridge for the Holidays

Riverlife hopes the temporary project will lead to permanent, decorative lighting of all three of the city's Sister bridges.
Mt. Lebanon Native Daya Nominated for MTV Video Music Award

Mt. Lebanon Native Daya Nominated for MTV Video Music Award

It's the first MTV nomination for the 17-year-old singing sensation.
Remembering A Rescuer of Gentle Giants

Remembering A Rescuer of Gentle Giants

Richard Kohl devoted most of his adult life to caring for homeless large-breed dogs.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in August

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in August

The month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Downtown Pittsburgh is booming. The Golden Triangle has grown in ways that previous generations may never have envisioned, and the perception of the neighborhood at the heart of Pittsburgh is changing rapidly –– for the better.
And The Winner Is....

And The Winner Is....

Meet the top vote getter in our 2016 Cutest Pet Contest.
The Region's Top Dentists 2016

The Region's Top Dentists 2016

Our latest list includes 368 topDentists in eight specialities from around the region.
Restaurant Review: Smallman Galley

Restaurant Review: Smallman Galley

The first crop of chefs in the Strip District restaurant incubator are four real.
The 10 Best Smiles in Pittsburgh

The 10 Best Smiles in Pittsburgh

Plus - we poll dentists included in our 2016 list of topDentists for their opinions and tips gleaned from years of experience in their profession.
Edit Module

 

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


ReplayFX Turns Convention Center Into Giant Arcade

ReplayFX Turns Convention Center Into Giant Arcade

The second annual gaming festival at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center brings 8-bits of weekend fun.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
A Thyme and Place

A Thyme and Place

Old friends Tricia Cohen and Lisa Graves reconnect via Facebook and collaborate on a historical cookbook.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Best 7 Spots in Pittsburgh to Watch the 2016 Euro Cup

The Best 7 Spots in Pittsburgh to Watch the 2016 Euro Cup

Grab your kits, scarfs and get ready to watch the Euro 2016 Pittsburgh-style. We'll show you where to go to get your fan on.

Comments


Garfield Bar Mixtape Is a Great Hangout (And a Good Bar, Too)

Garfield Bar Mixtape Is a Great Hangout (And a Good Bar, Too)

Part craft-cocktail joint and part coffee bar, the welcoming spot wants you to stay a while.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Optimism With An Asterisk As Good As It Gets In Steelers Training Camp

Optimism With An Asterisk As Good As It Gets In Steelers Training Camp

Although NFL teams never simply pick up where they left off the previous season, there’s reason to believe the 2016 Steelers could resemble the team that came agonizingly close to knocking off the eventual Super Bowl Champion Broncos in Denver last January.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Namaste! Sandals Made from Yoga Mats

Namaste! Sandals Made from Yoga Mats

Sanuk’s Yoga Sling Sandal are super comfy yet chic.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The New Ghostbusters Is a Worthy Addition to the Franchise

The New Ghostbusters Is a Worthy Addition to the Franchise

Reviews of "Ghostbusters" and "The Infiltrator," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
A Whimsical Wedding in Wonderland

A Whimsical Wedding in Wonderland

This Pittsburgh bride brought all the details together for a flawless “Alice in Wonderland”-themed wedding.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Coming Soon: Historic Lawrenceville Building Ready for Makeover

Coming Soon: Historic Lawrenceville Building Ready for Makeover

Real estate crowd-funding platform Small Change Pittsburgh is raising funds to transform the Butler Street building.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Online Education at Edinboro University Nationally Ranked

Online Education at Edinboro University Nationally Ranked

The university landed in the top 10 schools for disabled students seeking an online education.

Comments