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 ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2017

Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2017

Pittsburgh’s medical lifesavers rated by their peers, including anesthesiologists, cardiologists, dermatologists, neurologists, ophthalmologists, pediatricians, psychiatrists, surgeons, urologists & many more.
Health Care in Pittsburgh that Goes Beyond the Office

Health Care in Pittsburgh that Goes Beyond the Office

Innovations in Postpartum Depression Treatment, First-Aid Training and Food Security.
Restaurant Review: DiAnoia's Eatery Bridges the Gap

Restaurant Review: DiAnoia's Eatery Bridges the Gap

With a little work, the Strip District restaurant could become a Pittsburgh classic.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

New Study: Pittsburgh Drivers are The Worst of the Worst

New Study: Pittsburgh Drivers are The Worst of the Worst

Pittsburgh ties with one other city for having the worst drivers in the nation.
HGTV Series Pilot Focuses on Renovation of Pittsburgh Home

HGTV Series Pilot Focuses on Renovation of Pittsburgh Home

The pilot episode of “Steel City Rehab” follows a Pittsburgh couple as they flip a home in the city’s East End.
‘The Good Wife’s’ Zach Grenier Appears on the Pittsburgh Stage

‘The Good Wife’s’ Zach Grenier Appears on the Pittsburgh Stage

Grenier on playing the dream role of Willy Loman, coming to Pittsburgh and performing at the renowned Pittsburgh Public Theater.
Enjoy a Cocktail to Help Preserve Pittsburgh's Historic Murals

Enjoy a Cocktail to Help Preserve Pittsburgh's Historic Murals

The nearly 80-year-old murals by Maxo Vanka show an immigrant's’ perspective on important issues.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2017

Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2017

Pittsburgh’s medical lifesavers rated by their peers, including anesthesiologists, cardiologists, dermatologists, neurologists, ophthalmologists, pediatricians, psychiatrists, surgeons, urologists & many more.
Health Care in Pittsburgh that Goes Beyond the Office

Health Care in Pittsburgh that Goes Beyond the Office

Innovations in Postpartum Depression Treatment, First-Aid Training and Food Security.
Looking Back: Dan Rooney, Remembered

Looking Back: Dan Rooney, Remembered

The builder of two stadiums, a billion-dollar football business, NFL labor harmony and racial sensitivity, and bridges between constituencies –– he was an everywhere man whose soft, steady hand was felt everywhere.
Restaurant Review: DiAnoia's Eatery Bridges the Gap

Restaurant Review: DiAnoia's Eatery Bridges the Gap

With a little work, the Strip District restaurant could become a Pittsburgh classic.
Pittsburgh at the Forefront of The Brain Revolution

Pittsburgh at the Forefront of The Brain Revolution

Alzheimer’s disease is the most expensive ailment to treat and the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. Pittsburgh has become a battleground in the fight against the devastating illness, thanks to the decade-long quest of two Pittsburgh researchers whose work is on track to change the face of medicine and affect millions worldwide.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


New Study: Pittsburgh Drivers are The Worst of the Worst

New Study: Pittsburgh Drivers are The Worst of the Worst

Pittsburgh ties with one other city for having the worst drivers in the nation.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Scratch Food & Beverage Has a New Executive Chef

Scratch Food & Beverage Has a New Executive Chef

Brandon Blumenfeld introduces an American gastropub menu at the Troy Hill bar.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

These spots are tailored for couples who are looking for a simple, chill night out on Valentine’s Day (or any other day). If your significant other isn’t the type to be wooed by expensive wines and chocolates, this is the list for you.

Comments


Five Essential May Events

Five Essential May Events

Comics (the kind on paper), comics (the kind with microphones), cats and more upcoming delights.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
‘Use Him Like ‘Troy Polamalu’ – Steelers Should Jump on This Pick

‘Use Him Like ‘Troy Polamalu’ – Steelers Should Jump on This Pick

If Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers is still available, the Pittsburgh Steelers would be wise to make him their first-round pick in the NFL draft.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Pittsburgh on a Plate

Pittsburgh on a Plate

The way to a beer lover’s heart is mapped out on notNeutral’s plate, which highlights Pittsburgh breweries (and other points of interest) across the city.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Sink Into a Trippy High School at Row House Cinema

Sink Into a Trippy High School at Row House Cinema

The Pittsburgh premiere of offbeat cartoon "My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea" is the local film event of the week.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Beautiful Blooms: Twists on the Traditional Bouquet

Beautiful Blooms: Twists on the Traditional Bouquet

You’ll definitely want the story behind these stunning wedding flowers.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Rare Plants, Accessories, Up for Grabs at 2017 Garden Marketplace

Rare Plants, Accessories, Up for Grabs at 2017 Garden Marketplace

Hosted by the Penn State Master Gardeners, the free event, which includes the local daffodil society’s annual show, features exclusive and hard-to-find flowers, shrubs, fruit and vegetable plants and other garden accessories from a variety of vendors.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
A-Rod to Talk Baseball and Steroids at Slippery Rock

A-Rod to Talk Baseball and Steroids at Slippery Rock

Considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Alex Rodriguez also is one of the league's more controversial stars.

Comments