In Georgia, there are orchards where you can go and pick your own: apples, plums, blueberries, pears and peaches, among other goodies in season. Apple orchards are in the north Georgia mountains. The peach orchards begin down around Macon. These are very popular places, because you can get exactly the fruit, in this case, the peaches, you want: the very ripest ones, or some greenish ones that will keep well and ripen slowly as you eat them, or smallish ones for pickling. The hidden benefit to picking your own is that you usually get to eat all the fruit you want while you are picking. For me, that means all that I can HOLD. All I can STUFF down my gullet. Plus just one more!
The first time I went picking peaches, I was with my paternal grandmother and my great-grandmother. We loaded up the car with five-gallon buckets, and set out. When we got there, I discovered that this orchard had two delicacies I had not been informed about: Georgia Belle peaches, and nectarines. For those of you who do not know, Georgia Belle peaches are extremely sweet, white-fleshed peaches that do not keep well once picked because of the very high sugar content. Plus, they are fragile: quite soft when fully ripe. This is another reason why you seldom see them offered for sale commercially or in stores: it’s hard to get these treats to market without damaging them. But, we were at a pick your own orchard, and the trees were loaded with sweet and juicy Georgia Belles. It was hunting season on peaches, and I had an unlimited license. I feasted on so many of them that the fruit acid made my teeth “sharp.” This means that my tooth enamel got sensitive from all the fruit I was eating.
Plus, there were nectarines, which are a hybrid cross between a peach and a plum, I think: the nectarines have no fuzz on them, which peaches have. Peach fuzz covers peaches like a young man’s first beard. It is soft, but prickly at the same time. And it rubs off on YOU. Nectarines allow you to avoid the fuzz problem: but I was gorging on Georgia Belles, and picking the nectarines for the buckets. So, I got peach fuzz all over me.
For those of you who do not know what happens when you get peach fuzz all over you, allow me to make a comparison: have you ever installed fiberglass insulation in the attic of your home in the middle of a summer heat wave? Fiberglass has very thin rods of glass in it, so thin it looks like hair. It is not hair. It is glass, and the bits of “hair” break off and imbed themselves in your hot, sweaty skin. Allow me to make another comparison: have you ever been bike riding and “lost it” just as you were passing a big patch of prickly pear cactus? Prickly pear cactus spines act just like fiberglass- and just like peach fuzz. Other similar comparisons I have also had the misfortune to experience include throwing hay bales up on the collecting wagon, again in the peak heat of a hot, dusty Georgia summer (grass is hell on hot, sweaty skin), and finally, going swimming in the ocean when there is no shower to rinse off the salt from your skin before it dries. Ocean salt on skin will inspire you to claw yourself raw, as will every other comparison I have made here: hay grass, prickly pear cactus spines, fiberglass and …..peach fuzz. It is every bit as bad as poison ivy, or poison oak, or poison sumac (the only one of the three I have not yet personally met).
And I was covered with it. OMG. Torture. I am not sure that even the gorging on the Georgia Belles was worth it. By the time we weighed out our fruit and paid, I was miserable, and trying VERY hard not to scratch. It was a thirty-minute drive home. It seemed like it took three days. Ever tried NOT to scratch a monumental itch – all over?? When we finally got home, GrandmaBob got me in the shower post-haste, and covered me with calamine lotion when I got out. I was about eight years old, and I have never picked peaches since. Apples, plums, blueberries, blackberries, figs, grapes, strawberries, and various other fruit, yes. Peaches? Never again.