Yum peaches

An oily ragger from Northland has been in touch to say how much they are enjoying their oily rag orchard – their peach tree in particular. “It’s a fairly young tree. Last year we picked a basket full but this year there is an absolute abundance. Each day our family makes a pilgrimage to the orchard to feast on the most delicious peaches you would ever taste. Fresh and juicy, each one fills the palm of a hand. We never spray the tree – just give it some fertiliser every now and then. It’s so easy we are going to expand the orchard again this year – more peaches, plums and apples.”

It’s wonderful to receive these oily rag success stories. It is so easy to put in a garden or an orchard and the benefits just keep on coming. The letter from our happy peach tree owner got us thinking that there will be oily raggers everywhere who will have more peaches than they can eat so here are some ideas.

To make a peach crisp pudding, you need 4 cups sliced peaches, 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup raw sugar, 1/2 cup flour, I cup rolled oats, ¼ teaspoon salt and a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Arrange sliced peaches in pie dish. Rub butter into flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt until crumbly, then mix in oats.  Sprinkle mixture on top of peaches and press down. Bake 30 minutes in a moderate oven until topping is lightly browned.

For a peach sponge pudding, bring sliced peaches – just covered with water – to a simmer then place in an oven proof dish. To make the sponge topping you will need 100g butter, 1 cup sugar, 2 eggs, 1 1/2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2-3/4 cup milk. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add eggs. Fold in sifted flour and baking powder with milk to make a spreadable batter. Spread over the hot fruit and bake at 200C for 30 minutes or until risen and golden brown.

Both of these puddings can be served with a good dollop of yoghurt, custard, ice cream or whipped cream. Yum!

Peaches are delicious on cereal, with ice-cream, or in a fruit salad.

Yellow peaches can be sliced and fried with pork sausages.

Make a peach smoothie by blending a chopped peach with a cup of orange juice. Add yoghurt or ice cream to thicken into a tasty creamy shake.

Peach muffins are delicious. To make them you will need  1 3/4 cups flour, 1/2 cup white sugar, a teaspoon of baking soda, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 2 eggs, 125g melted butter, a cup of milk, and a cup of chopped peaches. Sift all dry ingredients together in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and add previously mixed egg, milk and butter. Stir quickly until dry ingredients are just moistened – the batter should be lumpy. Add in the chopped peaches then place large teaspoonfuls in greased muffin or patty pans. Bake at 200 C for about 20 minutes or until golden.

For those who want to grow peaches there are basically two types: standard and dwarf. The dwarf varieties grow about 2.5 metres tall (half the size of a standard tree) and are good for small sections, containers, and short people(!). The varieties can also be grouped as freestone or clingstone (meaning the flesh either falls free of the stone or clings to it). Freestone varieties are preferred for cooking and preserving.

The best time to plant a new tree is in the autumn, once the ground has moistened, and the best time to prune a peach tree is in the winter when the trees are dormant. They like a good feed of nitrogen rich fertiliser, especially in early summer, and they need plenty of water during dry periods when the delicious fruit is forming. It’s so easy!