I was happy to catch up with Donna and Bill Moldovan of Pittsboro this week to talk about one of my favorite fruits: peaches. Actually, that should be peaches with an exclamation point. PEACHES!
The Moldovans started their small, personal grove about 13 years ago, and filled it with a variety of peaches, along with nectarines, apples, plums and apricots. The apricot is older, because it relocated from Illinois with them. If they could bottle the heavenly scent of ripening peaches, they’d be gazillionaires.
When I asked “Why peaches,” Bill said simply, “Because my wife likes them.”
In my other life, I’m a romance novelist, so I can say with all confidence: that’s a dreamy sentiment. And plant peaches he did. Diamond Princess, White Princess, J.H. Hale, Belle of Georgia, Early Elberta, Red Elberta and Red Haven. Their grove reads like a Who’s Who of yellow and white freestone varieties. The trees typically begin producing ripened fruit at the end of June and will yield through the end of July. So far, the Early Elbertas are ripe enough to pick— “but they’re not sweet,” Donna said. So she uses them in frozen peach margaritas and peach cobblers. Donna’s got it going on.
“We don’t fertilize them regularly,” said Bill, “because they’re already established.” Their biggest foes are the birds, which surprised me because I assumed the biggest peach pest would be the Japanese beetles. Occasionally Bill uses “fruit tree spray, or Sevin, or Neem Oil,” he says, but again, the Moldovans orchard is really hearty.
So hearty, in fact, the fruit weighs down the branches.
“We usually lose maybe one or two branches a year,” Bill said, “but we didn’t do any pruning last fall.”
That’s the likeliest culprit for the surplus of broken branches this summer. Each tree is weighed down by hundreds of peaches, from the tip top of the highest branch, to the graceful arc of the ground-swooping low branches. Branches on every-other tree are held aloft by braces. It’s heartbreaking to come up on giant limbs littering the ground, laden with peaches.
At 82, Bill doesn’t climb the trees to pick them any more, but he happily shares them with family and friends with a cool picker tool that gently grabs peaches from high overhead.
“Keep your trees thinned out early, when they start blooming,” Donna said.
“And prune them every year,” added Bill.
We’ve been getting peaches at the Pittsboro Farmers Market on Thursdays, and the Fearrington Farmers Market on Tuesdays. Along U.S. Hwy. 64 there’s Howard’s Farm, and off the beaten path on Hillside Dairy Road there’s a pick-your-own place.
Where are y’all getting your peaches from?
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