Each year in November, my mum’s kitchen bench would be covered in baskets of peaches, glowing and giving off the most beautiful fragrance. I can still remember my delight at getting stuck into those stone fruit. The first peach of the season was always the best, but I couldn’t stop at one! For that first week I binged on at least three in a sitting – usually standing over the sink so the juice could just drip down my chin. That annual experience taught me what peaches should really be like – soft, juicy and sweet – never crunchy and tasteless.
For me that was the beginning of learning the importance of local, seasonal produce. I don’t think my mum was in any way political about her shopping habits – she was just out the get the cheapest, best food that she could. She knew that the way to do this was to visit local farms (in the Hawkesbury region on the fringes of Sydney) and buy her peaches from a grower. I’m trying to pass on the taste for real peaches to my kids in the same way my own mum did. Just like her, I try to buy direct from the farm. Whenever I can, I wait to have my first peach each year from John McGuire at Enniskillen in Grose Vale. He grows a delicate heirloom variety of white peach that tastes like my childhood. Any sneaky attempt I might make to cheat and buy early peaches at the supermarket is always disappointing.
I am proud to volunteer my time for Hawkesbury Harvest. I write their column in a local newspaper and regularly chat about The Farm Gate Trail on ABC702 in Sydney. There are strong sentimental reasons for this, but also philosophical ones. I believe it is critically important for our city’s food security that we protect the productive lands in peri urban areas. When Harvest told me this week that peach season was beginning early (Canoelands Orchard is opening for pic your own this weekend) I had that sense of coming full circle back to the beginning of the food year. So Happy New Food Year! May there be a lot to celebrate on our next trip around the sun!
*For more information about Hawkesbury Harvest or local food in Sydney, Australia download The Farm Gate smartphone app.