Peach Lust

“Why did you want to adopt a peach tree?” the Fresno Bee newspaper reporter asked. “Peach lust!” I shouted. It was the end of July, and we were in the orchard at Masumoto Family Farm, pulling fat, ripe peaches from our “adopted” Elberta peach tree. They were even more sweet and luscious than I’d dreamed back in January, when I filled out the adoption application. But to be honest, the experience was far more than the lusty reward of a perfect peach. I didn’t admit it to the reporter, but I was convinced our adopted tree was magic. I started to suspect something was up when an honest-to-goodness former Georgia Peach Queen (complete with tiara) appeared on my doorstep. We’d decided to have a pre-pick potluck so the “Warm Fuzzies” adoptive parents could meet (they all knew my husband, Paul, and me but not each other). Her highness, the Georgia Peach Queen, is a pal of one of the “parents” and agreed to stop by to offer us words of wisdom and encouragement. She taught us a proper royal wave – and that peach orchards are either dusty or muddy. As we prepared to trek down to Fresno, CA, for our first weekend of picking, fellow Fuzzy, Christopher, started researching places to eat. He soon discovered the most lauded restaurant in town had closed. Being an intrepid writer, he tracked down the former owners, explained our predicament and asked for a recommendation. “There’s really no place we can recommend,” they told him. “Why don’t you just come over to our house for dinner?” So, we ended up enjoying a gourmet meal with complete strangers. Clearly the result of peach tree prestidigitation. The next morning, we headed for the Masumoto orchard at 7 am. Our peaches literally glowed in the early morning light. It was as if Hollywood had created the perfect orchard. We found birds’ nests nestled among the branches, and discovered “photos” of leaves on the peaches where a leaf had blocked the sun and prevented the pink “blush” from forming (something we might have considered a flaw if we’d seen the peach at a store or farmers market). We couldn’t resist slicing and eating the ripest, juiciest fruit on the spot. We joined the 100 or so other adoptive parents at tables set between the orchard rows. Mas’s family (along with some generous volunteers) served us breakfast under the trees – pancakes with peach compote and bagels with homemade peach jam. Mas visited from table to table, handing out hugs (he’s the sort of person you immediately want to hug). Nearly everyone was reminiscing about things their moms or grandmothers had made with peaches: pies, cobblers, jams. It’s amazing what a sensory link biting into a real peach can be. Before our second picking weekend, I wrote to the food columnist at the Fresno Bee, asking for restaurant suggestions. She took the time to send back a detailed email, with options ranging from hole-in-the-wall to fancy. You might say it’s just an example of small-town kindness – but I believe the peach tree had a hand (branch?) in it. We ended up at Uncle Harry’s Classic Meals in the little burg of Reedley, for plates heaped with Armenian shish-kabob and a visit with Uncle Harry himself, who pulled up a chair and told us about growing up on a watermelon ranch: “In the early morning, you have to tiptoe through the fields, or else your footsteps will cause the watermelons to crack open. We used to stomp a bit so we could have one for breakfast.” Stuffed with three different desserts (including a test batch of Harry’s new pluot smoothies), we headed back to our Holiday Inn, wondering why more people don’t plan a weekend getaway to Fresno. But perhaps the best magic of all was sharing our peaches with friends, family and co-workers. “These taste the way peaches used to taste!” people exclaimed. “Now, THESE are peaches!” So, to Sanford Nax, who was tromping around in Mas’s orchard for the Fresno Bee, I’m glad you liked my quote. But I did feel the need to confess.
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