Must be the Season of the Peach
By Nanci E. LaGarenne
|The prize, from Halsey. Photo by Nanci E. LaGarenne|
|Jenn Halsey and Will|
“Movin’ to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches…” goes the song by the band, The Presidents of the United States of America. I was prepared to do that weeks ago. Not move, but mosey on down to Water Mill and Halsey’s Peach Orchard on 27, next to The Milk Pail. But lo and behold, The Milk Pail was closed. I headed for Amy’s Flowers, known as the “mini” Milk Pail in summer. I took a wrong turn and found myself at another farm field, not a peach in sight. A grandmotherly woman on a tractor headed in my direction, as I got out of my car. “Hello! Where are the peaches?” I asked. “Honey, there’s no peaches out here until the end of July.” “Oh,” I said, turning myself and my car around. I found the mini Milk Pail at 757 Mecox Road. No one was inside the barn/shop; I noticed a sign on the counter: “If you’re eating local peaches, they aren’t local.” Okay, twice told. I met Amy Halsey and she sweetly told me to contact her sister, Jenn. “She does the peaches.” I would wait another week or so for peak peach season out here.
In the meantime, Davis Peach Farm, on Sound Ave. in Wading River, was abounding with peaches. Their farm was started in 1910 by Archer Davis in Mt. Sinai and moved to Wading River in 1988. Davis’ son, David, who took over in 1948, and David’s wife Christine, are now co-owners. Davis Peach Orchard grows 80 varieties of peaches, including 6 different donut peaches.
Peaches were early on the North Fork this year, June 21 to be exact, Christine told me. Davis will have peaches until the beginning of October, weather cooperating, and it certainly has so far. “Stone fruits love the heat,” says Christine.
Her personal favorites are Red Gourmet, a red-fleshed, red-skinned peach, and Honeydew donut, which tastes “just like honeydew melon!” Get the Red Gourmets now, they will only last two more weeks.
This year is the 100th anniversary of Davis Peach Farm. You can pick your own there, but call first to make sure the orchard is open and the peaches are ripe for picking. “We never let people pick them green,” says Christine. “That’s the difference between us and the supermarket.” Davis Peach Farm is open 7 days a week from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. Soon Davis Farm will have goats and goat cheese and milk will be available. “I think Long Island needs to get in touch with its past. It’s important for everyone.” Said Davis.
The importance of supporting your local farm stand is not wasted on Christine Davis. “Shop at your local Long Island farms. We have an incredible amount to offer.” Davis Farm opens on Mother’s Day and closes right after Thanksgiving. Customer service and satisfaction is top on Davis Farm’s list. “I want people to say, ‘this is the best peach I have ever eaten’,” Christine says.
Go taste for yourself. Buy or pick your favorite peaches. Grab a pint of berries while you’re at it. They have them all. Plus fruit trees for sale. Junda’s Bakery in Jamesport uses only Davis peaches in their pies. Next for Davis Farm will be irises. Christine’s mother-in-law, Anita, cultivated them, and Christine is searching for the “Anita Iris,” which they will grow in her honor.
A bountiful orchard at Halsey’s, on 27, right next to The Milk Pail, waited for me. You can buy peaches at the mini Milk Pail/Amy’s Flowers, back on Mecox Lane, but you don’t get to pick them yourself. There’s good reason for that, Jenn Halsey, keeper of the peach orchard, told me. Peaches are delicate when they are ripe. “People not in the know might pick one not too carefully and dent or bruise it, and then wouldn’t want it. Or pick one that wasn’t quite ready yet and not at its peak. Better to wait.” Better to let the experts do it. “Peaches aren’t like apples,” Jenn said.
Jenn’s parents are John and Evelyn Halsey, the founders of The Milk Pail. Back in 1969, they started with a little stand by the Knights of Columbus on 27. Jenn comes from 13 generations of farmers.
The Halseys grow vegetables, apples, pumpkins, flowers, and of course, peaches. Apples and pumpkins in season are U-Pick. Since the Halseys themselves are “technically retired,” Jenn grows the produce and manages the orchards and her sister Amy runs both Milk Pails and does the flowers. Why call it the Milk Pail when you aren’t selling milk? Turns out, John had cows back in the day. But right now it was time to get to the peaches.
I followed Jenn and her adorable son Will, 2, into the orchard. The donut peaches were first. Cute, small, easy to eat in a few bites. “They are white fleshed and perfumier,” Jenn told me.
Jenn ate her first peach of the season on July 15. The peaches on the South Fork are 10 or 11 days early this year. Many local farm stands sell “local” North Fork peaches first from places like Davis, in Riverhead. They are yummy; but I wanted a really local peach. “Closer to the ocean and salt air, peaches take longer to ripen,” Jenn said. “Peaches like it hot and sunny. That’s how they sweeten up.”
There are many varieties of peaches. Halsey’s boasts 12. I tasted a Glenglow, a yellow-fleshed winner. Sweet, but not overdone. Fragrant. Juicy. The peaches of my childhood. John Boy, Ernie’s Choice, Glowhaven, Bounty and Cresthaven, are a few of the other yellow-fleshed ones. Sugar Giant, Snow King, and the donuts, which are known as Saturns, are all white fleshed and are a bit sweeter. I like my peaches yellow inside. Jenn prefers the yellow John Boys. “Man, are they good!”
There’s another reason Halsey’s picks the peaches for you. “We don’t want to lose that family aspect of the business. The customer service is important to us.”
Now that I tasted my first South Fork peach of the season, I was thinking about, well, more peaches. Peach pie. Peach cobbler. Peach salsa. Maybe that delectable dessert my friend Gale makes called blueberry slump, but with peaches instead! Jenn was right with me. “The peach pies are ready,” she said. “And the peach cobbler recipe on our website is to die for.” I’m on it.
The time has come, people. Eat a peach. Ancient cultures thought it a food of immortality. A fruit of happiness. Plus a hit of potassium and Vitamin C. Queen Victoria herself wouldn’t end a meal without a peach on a pretty cotton napkin.
Peaches were the favored fruit of emperors and kings. Kids love them too. I watched young Will hold his freshly picked peach in both little hands and hoist it to his mouth for a bite. What pleasure is a peach. “If I had my way I’d eat peaches every day…” goes that “Peaches” song. I couldn’t agree more. Can you say Bellini?
Davis Peach Farm, 1039 Sound Avenue, Wading River, 929-1115, davispeachfarm.com.