A crazy ripe peach is the epitome of all that is good and wonderful about eating what’s grown close to you, which is, by definition, seasonal. Of course, we can get peaches all year ’round now, as we can with just about any food. But whether you do or not comes down to how you define “peach.”
If your definition of a peach stops at “blushing orange orb,” then why wouldn’t you buy one in February (even if it is a bit firm)? But if “peach” to you means a “blushing orange orb that epitomizes the warmth of the summer sun and should come with a footnoted warning: Excess juice and high danger of drippage. Best eaten over a sink or outside on a stoop,” then it would make no sense at all to buy one in winter. And it wouldn’t irk you to wait for it, since your very definition of the fruit is inextricably tied to the whole experience of summer.
This may all sound grandiose, but I’m really just describing the shift that happened to my own perception of “peach” a few years back.
It had been a scorcher of a day, cooled at dusk by a breeze so refreshing it felt like taking a dip in a pool. I took a walk up to the orchard behind the house we were renting just to be outside. With each footfall, the earth exhaled the scent of warm straw and clay. In the orchard, shadows stretched across the rows of trees and one ruby-golden fruit with fuzz as rich as velvet called to me. It was like it had taken on the radiance of the sun and now glowed from within.
I picked it. I took a bite. And I’m not kidding you, I swooned. I’ve never liked being sticky, I think in large part because my mom never liked me being sticky. But I’ll tell you … I didn’t give a lick when that ambrosial nectar dripped down my forearms and off my elbows and into my hair. The farmer/poet/philosopher Mas Masumoto calls that moment “losing your peach virginity.” When I’d nibbled every last bit of flesh off that pit, I just stood there, trying to wrap my head around how freaking good that peach was. That moment painted the picture of “seasonal” for me like no magazine article or seminar sermon ever could, and I came away a changed woman.
So when should you make this Fiery-Sweet Salsa? Now … while the peaches are at their peak. Where should you get those peaches? From a farmer–or orchard–near you.