Good morning and greetings, fruit lovers. One of the things that excites me about this time of year is the exotic array of fruits available for my summer feeding pleasure. Living in California, botanical wonders are king, as I never tire of nectarines, plums, peaches, cherries and blueberries. Add to that the endless variety of melons, including honeydew, canteloupe, won’t commit, casaba and persian. And last but not least, the fruit referred to by botanists as a pepo, the watermelon, a berry that has a thick rind, a fleshy center and a juicy soul.
The sweetest melon I tasted this summer was an orange flesh honeydew that was pure golden sugar. This melon is a hybrid bliss between a canteloupe and honeydew. Its creamy orange flesh melted in mind and my mouth, and it goes along perfectly with my vegan diet that includes meat, fish and free range cornish hens.
So when I came upon story this story written by Ray Henry for the Associated Press, I immediately sensed its seasonal importance. Because unlike myself, all summer fruits have a life of their own.
Georgia is known as the Peach State, and images of one of God’s juiciest fruits appears on billboards, road signs, state license plates and in fruit smoothies throughout the state. If you drive through downtown Atlanta, and do so at your own risk, you’ll see Peachtree Street, Peachtree Center Avenue, West Peachtree Street, Peach Cobbler Boulevard and Peach Pie Parkway. It’s a deciduous route, but one that must be taken.
There’s just one tiny problem, cling-free fans. Peaches no longer dominate the groves in Georgia. The new kids on the block are blueberries, which are by far Georgia’s most lucrative fruit crop. Blueberries generated an estimated $94 million for Georgia growers in 2012, which was more than three times as much as the peach crop.
Now since July is National Blueberry month, the question should be asked, what do we know about our little friend? Well, for starters, native Americans and Marlon Brando called them “star berries” because of their blossoms. They are the state fruit of my beloved New Jersey and make wonderful pies, ice cream and musical lyrics. Just ask Richie Cunningham.
And according to the folks at AAA, the annual harvest of North American blueberries would cover a four lane highway from New York to Chicago if you spread them out in a single layer covered with whipped cream.
Growers and blueberry muffin experts say a combination of supply-and-demand, a good growing environment and the Falcons finally playing winning football propelled blueberries from a tiny crop to a profitable niche that dwarfs and Snow Whites the famed peach. Blueberries used to be a colorful afterthought in the this state that General William Tecumseh Sherman marched to the sea through. But when out-of-state blueberry producers wanted ways to get berries on the supermarket shelves earlier in the year, they signed deals with growers in Georgia, and the rest is blueberry history.
Physicians, nutritionists and food truck chefs have been singing their praises for blueberries for their antioxidantal qualities. The berries are an exotic blue color, which is rarely seen in natural foods and Crips territory. Because of antioxidants being a buzz word these days, blueberries are in high in demand among health-conscious consumers and enemies of the huckleberry. Personally, I love them, but unlike apples, oranges or bananas, they are not emotionally available to me all year round.
It takes three or four years, or the amount of time it would take me to get back into good playing shape, for the blueberry bushes to reach full production. And despite being the peachiest of states, Georgia is not the biggest U.S. producers, as California and South Carolina are the leaders of the pack. Georgia’s reputation for peaches was always one part reality, one part marketing and one part Hollywood. When the Civil War ended and the South was left in ruins like the today’s Oakland Raiders, farmers no longer had slave labor to count on. They needed an alternative and peaches was one crop that came to the rescue.
Samuel Rumph, a 19th century grower in Georgia, was a major innovator, commercializing a tasty and robust variety called the Elberta, named for his wife, Louise. He developed a refrigerated rail car, making it possible to ship Georgia peaches to larger markets in Boston, Philadelphia and New York. As a result, northern customers started associating Georgia with peaches. Or as author Melissa Fay Greene puts it, “A real Georgia peach, a backyard great-grandmother orchard peach, is as thickly furred as a sweater, and so fluent and sweet that once you bite through the flannel, it brings tears to your eyes.”
Peaches were first cultivated in China and came to Europe from Persia, hence their ancient name, the Persian apple, which coincidentally was my nickname in college. There are over 700 varieties of peaches, and some Chinese varieties are flat like hockey pucks, which are very popular in Canada. The peach is a close relative of the almond and as a result, often spend holidays together. August is National Peach Month. And eating peaches can help reduce hair loss, act as a stress reliever and be used as an aphrodisiac, but you have to be careful with the pit.
So although the peach is no longer the top crop in Georgia, I still have all the respect in the world for this fruit the Chinese consider a symbol of immortality. I believe it comes down to this for this fuzzier cousin of the nectarine. In the words of writer James Whitcomb Riley, “The ripest peach is always highest in the tree.” Or as poet Alice Walker put it, “Life is better than death, if only because it is less boring, and it has fresh peaches in it.” But we’ll let the final word come from writer William Somerset Maugham who wrote, “In Hollywood, the women are all peaches. It make one long for an apple occasionally.”
For today photo rendevous, we are heading over to the westside of Santa Cruz. For some reason on this night, the sky fooled me into thinking it wasn’t up to its usual tricks, so I wasn’t photo ready. But when the sky started lighting up like a Christmas tree, I grabbed my camera and hurriedly took some shots by the entrance to the Longs Marine Lab.
But then the sky started to turn psychedelic colors, and I thought, well, better late than never, and drove over to Natural Bridges like Mario Andretti to capture the final scenes of this March drama. I may have been late for the opening act, but when the curtain went down, I was sitting front row and center, and it was fantastic.
On to some late night humor. “Anthony Weiner has been caught in yet another sexting scandal. At the beginning of this campaign he said that other texts and photos were likely to come out. Well, they have. Finally, a politician who keeps his promises. Anthony Weiner said yesterday that he wants closure. If he wants closure he should start with his zipper.” – Jay Leno
Anthony Weiner the peter tweeter is at is again. He admitted in a press conference to having more online sexting episode well after he resigned from Congress. This time Anthony Weiner used the name Carlos Danger. He was sexting women under the name Carlos Danger. See, this is Weiner’s way of getting more Latino support.” –Jay Leno “New Yorkers were so shocked that the thing on Trump’s head fainted.” –Craig Fergsuon
“Everybody is still talking about the royal baby. In fact, I saw that President Obama released a statement congratulating Prince William and Kate Middleton on the birth of their son. Then he said, ‘And whatever you do – hang on to that birth certificate.’” –Jimmy Fallon “The royal baby has a name now: George Alexander Louis. George is not the king yet. So for now, we just address him as ‘Boy George.’ “Prince Harry said what any proud family member would say: ‘Back of the line, junior.’” –Craig Ferguson
“A tourist came up to me today and she says, “I watch your show on and off.” And I said, “How do you like it?” And she said, “Off.”- David Letterman
“Rocky is back. Again. Yeah, 67-year-old Sylvester Stallone is getting ready to star in a seventh “Rocky” movie. You can tell he’s getting up there because instead of running up those famous stairs, now Rocky just takes the elevator.” – Jimmy Fallon
So that’s our last blast for July. We’ll catch you showing baseball fans that at age 40 you can still dominate hitters and being tied for most wins in the American League. Aloha, mahalo and later, Bartolo Colon fans.