I’m not sure about you but I count down the days to peach season each year. Something about these sweet, yet tart fruits just screams summertime. So at the first chance I get, I head over D’Amico’s Farm Stand in Closter, New Jersey and buy some fresh peaches. What I love about D’Amico’s is the fact that the owner of this 60-year family-run business, John D’Amico, only sources from small farms within a 200-mile radius of Closter. That means, most of his delicious, freshly picked fruits and vegetables come from south Jersey, which is at the heart of the Garden State. D’Amico’s has clingstone fruit until the summer reaches its apex of heat and then begins offering freestone. So, what’s the difference?
At first glance, there is no difference between a clingstone and freestone peach, both fuzzy and reddish-pink on the outside. On the inside, however, is where the difference lies. The best way to figure out if your peaches are clingstone or freestone is by slicing the peach down the middle and pulling it apart. If the pit falls out easily, it is freestone. If not, clingstone.
Clingstone peaches are those that when opened, the pit sticks to the pulpy flesh of the fruit. According to goodhousekeeping.com, these peaches are rarely sold in stores but are used mostly in canned fruit. Depending on the location of the peach farm, harvest season for clingstones can range from mid-May to early August. But use them as long as you can! Their large and juicy peach-ness can be used to make great jellies, jams, purees and fantastic summer dishes.
Freestone peaches, on the other hand, separate easily from the fruit. Although larger and less juicy in texture, they are still undeniably sweet. Again, depending on the grower, freestones can be harvested from mid-June to early October. Generally freestone peaches last later into the season than clingstone peaches. They are perfect for cooking because they slice easily and uniformly, making them well-suited to great pie recipes that will leave your guests’ mouths watering.
One of the best things about summer is the availability of fresh peaches. So whether you enjoy peaches in purees or in pies, these yummy fruits are the perfect means for sweetening up your summer.
If you look at the statistics it appears that the days of the American small farmer are numbered. In 1935, there were just short of seven million farms dotting our nation’s fertile landscape. Today, that number has dropped to a mere two million.That decrease doesn’t correspond with a decline in overall food production – on the contrary, we’re churning out more grains, meat, and produce than ever before to feed our growing population.The difference is that in the past small farmers were the kings of agriculture but now they struggle to compete with the massive enterprises (aka factory farms) that dominate the modern agribusiness scene.
When a small farmer is quashed, we lose a lot more than just a vital fixture in the local community. We lose access to fresh, locally grown, nourishing and flavorful food. That farmer’s disappearance is linked to not only loss of economic stimulus to a local community, but has devastating consequences for insects that cohabitate with crops, namely the important honey bee. And without honey bees, our nation’s entire agri system is deeply and irrevocably impacted.
Take the Local, a start-up in Long Valley, NJ has some ambitious plans to support the Garden State’s dwindling farmer population and the communities it serves. Created by Anthony and Jonelle Hemsey, the couple drew much of their inspiration from Jonelle’s multi-generational roots in Alberta, Canada cattle ranching. Jonelle witnessed firsthand just how desperate the struggle has become for small farmers to stay afloat and with Anthony organized Take the Local to support their shared passion for preserving local agri-culture. Take The Local strives to be more than just a company – they want to encourage a movement to “create innovative, healthy and sustainable business opportunities around local farm economies.”
In speaking with their founder and director Anthony Hemsey (who happens to be a former ad executive at Deutsch and more recently an EVP at a global software firm), I learned that the Take the Local team view themselves as “half technologists and half foodies.” Take The Local wants to use modern technologies to connect local farmers with restaurateurs and individual consumers in innovative ways. The company is exploring several different avenues in pursuit of this goal, one of which involves using digital and mobile technology.
An example of this techie approach to food solutions is their FARMventory which is basically a LinkedIn-like platform designed with farmers in mind. Farmers can use this platform to list and track their inventories in real time as well as highlight the farming practice(s) they employ on their farm. It’s all in an effort to make the process streamlined, transparent, and easier for distributors, restaurants, and general consumers to see what’s available at the point of purchase. Take the Local is also working on something called AisleEatRight, an interactive food shopping platform geared towards people with special dietary needs or restrictions. Both programs are slated to launch in Q2 2014.
Take the Local also hosts Supper Clubs which are traveling dinner parties featuring local chefs who create menus using locally sourced food. These Supper Clubs are all about bringing farmers, chefs, and the community closer together. Take the Local Winter Supper Club featuring Chef Jessica Geanoules will take place on January 18, 2014 from 8:00PM to 11:00PM in Washington Township, NJ ($100/ticket). Guests will enjoy an intimate, three course meal of local seasonal fare as well as wine pairing served in a rustic setting (former lumber yard). Proceeds from the Winter Supper Club will be donated to Community FoodBank of New Jersey.
Take the Local is also gearing up to launch a limited line of first run frozen food developed specifically for kids. This line has a unique tech spin, featuring packaging iconography that is scannable by smartphones that includes information on the partner farms, interviews/videos, as well as detailed dietary information for concerned consumers.
Take The Local’s model may be just the ticket for the paradigm shift that needs to take place in order to ensure a healthy and sustainable future. Retail buyers can connect with the Take The Local team by emailing email@example.com.
Stokes Farm in Old Tappan likes to call itself a small town farm with big city charm. If you have visited their farm stand in Old Tappan on DeWolf Road or one of their three New York City farmers market setups, you’ll likely agree that the statement holds true. When Isaiah Stokes set sail from England in 1873 for America, he quickly purchased 40 acres of land in Old Tappan which he developed into farmland. Several generations later, his descendants have added 17,000 square feet of greenhouses to keep a robust harvest possible even as the temperatures dip. I visited with 6th generation farmer Jenny Lichtenwalner to learn about herb wreaths, which are exquisitely fragrant and made with Stokes own rosemary ($25) or rosemary and thyme ($28). I can’t imagine a lovelier hostess gift.
Upwards of 1,500 wreaths were sold last year between the farm stand, its NYC outposts and through online purchases through their website. Visit the Old Tappan farm stand on Tuesday, November 19th or the 26th to purchase (pre-orders accepted now) or call 201-768-3931 to arrange shipping. Each wreath, about 12 inches in diameter, comes with a card on wreath care. The herb is made hours before sale and keeps its suppleness for about one week before entering into its “dry” herb life chapter, when it can be plucked at for quick additions to soups, stews, roasts or teas. Its usefulness certainly outlasts floral arrangements and its value to the home cook or lover of herbal fragrance wafting through the air will last well beyond the holiday season.
The farm also offers its Stokes Farm Thanksgiving Thyme Saver Box, chock full of NJ grown fresh fruits and vegetables. Sizes and prices vary from small ($39), adequate for feeding 5 people up to large ($99), adequate for feeding 15. A flyer suggests that the bounty will be adequate for the preparation of winter squash soup, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts, cranberry jelly, sweet potatoes and apple pie. Box orders must be placed by 8:00PM Monday, November 18th. Pick up is on Tuesday, November 26th betwen 9:00AM and 5:00PM.
On a recent visit, Stokes had a fine selection of winter squash. It’s the only farm in the region I have been able to find my favorite mini white Jack-A-Boo pumpkins for decorating my Thanksgiving buffet table. Halloween seems to clean other farm stands and grocers out of these squash.
Ask John D’Amico of D’Amico’s Flower Farm which apple is ideal for baking and you will get an answer as well as an in-depth explanation of how the texture of different varieties are impacted by weather. Traveling up to 200 miles multiple times each week to local farmers for what he considers the best in seasonal produce, eggs, cheese, cider (Melick’s non-preserved only from Hunterdon County), John groups these edibles along with plants and herbs under the modestly sized stand his family has managed for generations. On these darker, colder days of fall, I recently found a beautiful bounty of 12″ broccoli heads and cauliflower, just begging to be turned into pureed soups:
One of my favorite ways to serve cauliflower is to steam it until fork tender and add a splash of chicken stock, plenty of butter and grated parmigiano reggiano, then blend with an immersion hand blender.
Check out these massive brussel sprouts that look like they were just harvested. At $3.50/stalk, they offer another great buy from this small family farm stand. I love them roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper or steamed and sauced with lemon, butter and Worcestershire, a la New Orleans kitchens. These flavorful cabbage cousins are at peak season now and can even be julianned in salads.
These gnarly celeriac knobs are beautiful and also competitively priced. A little patience and creativity goes a long way with these flavorful tubers.
Parsnip and rutabega not first on your shopping list? Great for an alternative to plain mashed white potatoes and loaded with vitamins.
I continue to buy these (sometimes in baskets half price when a bit bruised) to turn into soups, sauces and slicing into salads and sandwiches until John has no more.
Bosc pears are flavorful, hearty pears that remain unscathed in my kids’ lunch boxes since their skin is a bit firmer. They are juicy and full of sweetness. If we don’t eat them quickly enough and they soften and get mushy, they get tossed into a pot of steaming bruised apples (the more varieties the better), a couple inches of cinnamon stick and a half inch of water for apple sauce making. If I don’t have the good fortune of fresh or frozen cranberries on hand, I’ll throw in a handful of dried cranberries for their beautiful pink radiance and tang. But look what John just happened to get in!
I will use about four boxes of these beauties to make my Thanksgiving cranberry relish which is 100% raw. RAW! I wash the cranberries and toss in my food processor fit with the steel blade, then puree with the peel of a washed navel orange, its juice, a small knob of fresh ginger, along with Vermont maple syrup to taste. This chunky relish is beautiful and delicious, not to mention packed with vitamin C.
No shortage of hard-fleshed squash at D’Amico’s. At under $1/pound, it’s also well-priced with butternut and other varieties available through December 1.
Bins of apples at D’Amico’s rotate multiple times weekly, so new varieties are always being added. Great pricing on wine sap and honey crisp and my favorite, pink lady. Not certified organic, but not sprayed. John’s quite picky about how produce is grown. Ask him about this.
What’s not shown in this post are shelves groaning with honey, preserves, chutneys and mustard as well as two large refrigerator cases filled with at least two varieties of mushrooms, kale, celery, herbs, baby arugula, beets (John won’t take them when they grow over a certain size) and carrots. His offerings change on a daily basis. Fresh Melick’s cider is available, along with fresh mozzarella, freshly ground horseradish, white potatoes, red bliss potatoes, yams and sweet potatoes, onions, leeks and much more.
Patronizing small business is what drives our economy and keeps families surviving economically from one generation to the next. This is one business worth patronizing not merely for the pristine quality of its offerings and the knowledge and passion of its owner, but also because it is a local business supporting local farmers. Through Thanksgiving, the Flower Farm will offer produce, plants (poinsettias soon) and then Christmas trees, wreaths and holiday plants after December 1.
November hours: 10:30AM-5:30PM 7 days, call for special orders, flower baskets and hours in December
460 Demarest Ave, Closter, NJ 07624
Phone: (201) 767-1009
Carol Baxter, the force behind Palisades Community Center, has developed yet another way to bring fresh-from-the-farm produce to the community, this time in conjunction with Cindy Jones, the female force behind Blooming Hill Farm. A very generously stuffed large shopping bag is available for $40 with fresh picks from the Blooming Grove, NY organic farm. The bags are delivered to the steps of the Center which is near Route 9W at 675 Oak Tree Rd in Palisades. There’s a $20 registration fee. Add additional fruit (another 2 pounds of apples and pears) for $5 and fresh loaves of Balthazar bread (varieties change weekly) for $5. Organic eggs are $7 per dozen. Email Carol by Tuesday to reserve your bag: firstname.lastname@example.org. Pick up is Friday morning between 9:00AM and 10:00AM at the Community Center.
Here are the contents of my bag:
Here’s a list of contents:
4. Baby Kale
5. Assorted Baby Lettuces
8. Plum Tomatoes
12. Celery (3 bunches)
13. Brussel sprouts
14. Baby carrots
15. Mixed color peppers
This is a wonderful option for people who don’t below to a CSA or have a farmers market near them or the chance to visit one. The bounty is very robust and reasonably priced. The beauty of having such a variety is that it forces you to find creative uses for the produce, at least putting a portion immediately to work. As the weather cools, braising beckons and soups seem to seduce. Tonight, I’ll roast a chicken and serve it with pan fried eggplant, a salad of the greens with apple cider vinaigrette and parsnip with cinnamon, apple cider and ginger roasted in a tangine. (Thanks to Tracee Yablon Brenner for the tip.)
Here in New Jersey, peach season is starting and ends in middle or late August. I eagerly await the summer stone fruit season each year, anticipating juicy fruit, bubbling pies, sweet smoothies and the simple beauty of a white bowl filled with peaches, nectarines, plums and other stone fruits. Peaches are quite hard to grow in New Jersey because of the humidity that envelopes the Garden State in the core summer months. Jerome Frecon, stone fruit expert with Rutgers Cooperative Extension, spoke with me recently about the ins and outs of peaches.
RWAF: I have been hearing from local farmers that this season has been challenging with the intense heat and incessant rain, creating rampant mold and fungus in crops. Is this the case for peach crops?
Jerome Frecon: The temperatures we are experiencing are great for peaches particularly if accompanied by sunshine. Sunlight causes photosynthesis and produces carbohydrates. namely sugar. The more sun the more sugar producing sweet peaches. Of course the heat causes fruit to ripen quicker, makes it more uncomfortable to pick fruit and hurts U=pick businesses. We have been able to manage the excessive moisture. Yes, it increases disease pressure but not nearly as bad as for crop growing just above the ground as annuals (vegetables). Peach season has not really started yet as of July 1, 2013.
RWAF: Roughly how many varieties of peaches does NJ grow and what are the leading varieties?
JF: We easily grow 100 varieties of yellow fleshed peaches and nectarines. Because we have not done tree fruit surveys since 1999 it is hard to tell. They are probably yellow fleshed varieties peaches that make up 85% of our production. My guess in order of ripening would be Desiree, Sentry, Glenglo, GaLa, Johnboy, Flamin Fury PF 17, Flamin Fury PF 24-007, Gloria, Messina and Flamin Fury PF 28-007. Varietal names are seldom used because there are so many and most people don’t remember them. How the peaches are picked and handled is much more important than the variety name.
RWAF: Is NJ the leading grower of peaches in the northeast?
JF: Yes, in the northeastern United Sates and 4th in the US.
RWAF: If visiting a pick-your-own, what are the best things to look for?
JF: We have very few U-Pick peach operations in NJ. The problem is the very hot weather during the ripening season. We all sweat and they are fuzzy making most uncomfortable. Picking apples and pears in the fall is much more fun and at a time of the year when it is cooler.
RWAF: What are the best ways to store peaches?
JF: When you get the peaches let them get ripe until almost soft at room temperature. Then if you want to keep them a little longer put them in the storage. Never put peaches in the refrigerator before they are ripe. Most run about 40 F and injure the fruit. If you have a 32F like growers and packer it is much better.
If you have a hankering to pick peaches in Northern New Jersey, check out local pick-your-own peach farm Demarest Farms. The farm also offers peaches by the quart and peck. At the time of writing this post, peaches were available at Demarest Farms for $9.00 a bag.
Kids activities, peach and peach-product tastings, recipe & handling brochures, & more
Atlantic County July 18
Thurs Margate Farmers Market
Peach Party…Peach Pie contest judging site
9700 Amherst Ave (Steve & Cookies by the Bay) http://www.steveandcookies.com
Peach Pie contest judging
Peach Queen appearance (tentative)
kids quiz & other activities, peach tastings & ratings,
recipe & handling brochures
Mercer County July 20 West Windsor Farmers Market
Southbound Vaughn Drive parking lot, Princeton Junction train station off of Alexander Rd. http://www.westwindsorfarmersmarket.org
NJ Peach Queen, “little chefs” cooking demonstration, entertainment by American Century, recipe & handling brochures, and more
Hudson County July 21 Riverview Farmers Market, Jersey City Heights
Peach Day…Peach Pie contest judging site
Riverview-Fisk Park, Ogden Ave (Griffith & Bowers) http://riverviewneighborhood.org
Perfect Peach Pie contest judging by Mory Thomas, director of Culinary Development at the Food Network
peachy event with live music and kids programs
Somerset County July 23-28 Gladstone Tavern, Gladstone
Jersey Peach Week
273 Main St Gladstone http://www.gladstonetavern.com
Menu offers Jersey peaches in all dishes, from appetizer and soup to main course, salad and dessert. Peaches are from Melick’s Farm, Oldwick
Reservations recommended, 908-234-9055 or via website
Gloucester County July 25-28 Mullica Hill, Gloucester Co 4-H Fair
NJ Peach Festival, Peach Pie contest judging site
275 Bridgeton Pike (Rte 77 S), Mullica Hill http://gloucester.njaes.rutgers.edu/fairfest
Peach Pie judging by Chef Jim Malaby, blueplate restaurant, July 26
Growers’ competition for the “Best Peaches”
July 26-Crowning of “Peach Queens,” in 5 competition categories in ages 5-18
Camden County July 27 Haddonfield Farmers Market
230 W. Redman Ave, Haddonfield http://www.haddonfieldfarmersmarket.org
Live music, children’s activities & of course peaches!!!..and more
Somerset County July 27 Montgomery Farmers Market
Village Shopper Parking Lot, 1340 Rt. 206 http://www.montgomeryfriends.org
“Pin the Stem on the Peach” game, other kids’ games, stories, tastings & more
Hopewell, Mercer County late July-August
Wed, Thurs, Fri The Brothers Moon Restaurant,
Peach Time at The Brothers Moon
7 W. Broad St., Hopewell http://www.brothersmoon.com
Chef Will is passionate about the beauty and taste of Jersey Peaches celebrates them with 3 & 4-course menus priced from $33-$47, featuring a variety of appetizers, soups, main courses, salads and desserts—all with peaches. Recipes will be available, by emailing email@example.com
Reservations recommended 609-333-1330 or via website
Somerset County Aug 2, 3, 4 Grain House Restaurant, Basking Ridge
225 Route 202, Basking Ridge http://www.oldemillin.com/grainhouse
Prix-fixe 3-course peach menu @ $
Menu of peach dishes. Reservations recommended
908-696 2335 or via website
Camden County August 3 Collingswood Farmers Market
“Just Peachy” Party, Peach Pie contest judging site
Between Collings & Irvin Aves. Along Patco http://www.collingswoodmarket.com
Peach Pie judging by Chef Mark Smith,
peach tastings & giveaways by Schober Orchards,, cooking demonstrations, kick-off for “Just Peachy” restaurant promotions the following week.
Morris County August 3 Chatham Borough Farmers Market
Chatham Train Station, Chatham http://www.chathamboroughfarmersmarket.com
Melick Farms peach tastings, Peach Princess and Peach Queen crowned, peach costume character, peach cooking demos
Hunterdon County August 3 Community Presbyterian Church, Chester
Peach Festival & Country Auction
220 Main St, Chester http://www.cpcchester.org
Peach pies, peach kuchens, peach cobbler, homemade peach ice cream, more peach homemade goodies, jams, jellies, and relishes . Country Auction begins @ 10 am. Call 908-879-5091 for further information.
Warren County August 3 Tree-Licious Orchards, Port Murray
Peach Party, Farm-to-Table Dinner
135 Karrville Road, Port Murray http://www.treeliciousorchards.com
Farm-to-Table Peach dinner, pick-your-own peaches, children’s activities, music, Carol’s peach cobbler for dessert.
Mercer County August 3-4 Terhune Orchards, Princeton
“Everything Peach” Festival & canning workshop
Peach Pie contest judging site Aug 4
330 Cold Soil Rd, Princeton Twp http://www.terhuneorchards.com
Aug 4- Peach Pie contest judging by area chef
Aug 3, 10 AM–Workshop by Pam Mount on canning and preserving peaches.
Children’s games, music and lots of tasty peach treats – muffins, pie, tea, ice cream. In the farm store, try our peach salsa, peach cobbler! Adults head to the tasting room for our award winning Just Peachy wine and summer peach sangria.
Morris County August 3-4 Alstede Farms, Chester
84 Route 513 (Old Route 24), Chester
GPS Address: 1 Chesterfield Dr, Chester, NJ 07930 http://www.alstedefarms.com
Pick Your Own Peaches, our own Homemade Peach Ice Cream, Peach Slushies, Peach Pies and other Peach desserts and a Peach Breakfast Sunday morning 8 to 12:30.
Camden County August 6-8 Collingswood Area Restaurants
Just Peachy 3-course all-peach menus http://www.sjculinaryevents.com
Tortilla Press, Blue Plate, El Sitio, Collingswood Blackbird/West Side Gravy. Reservations recommended. via website
Gloucester County August
6- 10 bluplate Restaurant & Holtzhauser Orchards
Peach Week Celebrating Peaches
7 S Main St Mullica Hill http://www.blueplatenj.com
3-course meal featuring Holtzhauser peaches @$25.00. Learn many uses of Jersey peaches, from the trees to the stove.
reservations recommended 856-478-2112 or via website
Middlesex County August 7 Woodbridge Farmers Market
Peach Party, Peach Pie contest judging site
1 Main St, Woodbridge http://www.twp.woodbridge.nj.us
Peach Pie contest judging by area chef
Kids activities, tastings, tie-in with local restaurant
Middlesex County August 10 Jamesburg Farmers Market
Veterans’ Park, Jamesburg http://www.ilovejamesburg.com
Kids activities, peach and peach-product tastings, much more
Essex County August 10 Montclair Farmers Market
Walnut Street Train Station parking lot http://www.montclairnjusa.org
tastings; kids quiz, games, recipe & handling brochures,
Bergen County August 11 Ramsey Farmers Market
Peach Festival, Peach Pie contest judging site
Erie Plaza Train Station http://www.ramseyfarmersmarket.org
Peach Pie contest judging by Chef Michael Volpe.
Everything “peachy,” fresh peaches, peach pies, jams, lemonades, ice teas, artisanal peach ice pops, and more
Hunterdon County August 11 Hunterdon Land Trust Farmers Market, Trenton
Peach Party, Peach Pie contest judging site
Dvoor Farm Rt 12 Circle, Flemington
www. hunterdonlandtrust.org/farmers-market Peach Pie judging by Chef/owner Leslie McEachem, Angelica Kitchen, NYC
Peach pies and other goodies, hand crafts in a country-fair atmosphere.
Essex County August 12 Maplewood Farmers Market
160 Indiana St, Maplewood http://www.twp.maplewood.nj.us
“Peachy” activities, tastings, recipe & handling brochures, and more
Camden County August 14 Westmont Farmers Market
Peach Party, Peach Pie contest judging site
43 Haddon Ave, Haddon Township http://www.westmontfarmersmarket.com
Peach Pie judging by area chef
Peach Glitter Tattoos, Peach Face Painting, Bobbing for peaches, Peach cooking contest , Guess how many peaches in the bushel to win the bushel, Peachey Free Balloons
Burlington County August 17 Burlington Farmers Market, Moorestown
500 Centerton Rd, Moorestown http://www.burlcoagcenter.com
Plenty of peaches, recipe & handling brochures, and more
Atlantic County August 17 Hammonton Downtown Market
209 Vine St parking Lot (across from Eagle Theatre) http://www.downtownmarket.org
2013 Peach Queen will meet her court—past Hammonton Peach Queens! Peach Recipe contest, tastings, music, giveaways sponsored by Pastore Orchards
Mercer County August 17 Trenton Farmers Market, Lawrence Twp
960 Spruce Street,Lawrence Twp.
/www.thetrentonfarmersmarket.com Peach tastings, giveaways & drawings, Peach Queen (tentative), music, much more.
Somerset County mid-August Grain House Restaurant, Basking Ridge
225 Route 202, Basking Ridge http://www.oldemillin.com/grainhouse
Menu of peach dishes. Reservations recommended
908-696 2335 or via website
Julian DeZao, RWAF Research Associate, contributed to this post.