Juicy goodness

By Daniel Winningham
Big, round, and dark reddish-orange with a tint of yellow on the outside. Yellow inside surrounding the red stone or pit. Juicy. Bursting with fresh, sugary flavor. Is your mouth watering yet?

During most years, in mid-to-late July and early August the peaches begin to ripen, and orchards start getting very busy.

“The size of them, feel, coloration,” said Dale Conrady of Backwoods Berry Farm of rural Hettick. “You’ve got to pick them a little on the green side. If I picked them soft, I can’t hold ‘em, they’ll just turn to mush with me here in the store.”

Jeff Broom of Broom Orchard, pointing out large Coral Star peaches on a heavy branch of a peach tree Aug. 1, said the key is to look for ones that are “big, red and round.”

Bob Malham, longtime owner of Malham’s Orchard south of Carlinville, says the portion of the peach by the stem should be “buttery yellow” instead of Green.

Dale Conrady and his wife Becky operate Backwoods Berry Farm. They’ve grown specialty fruit and vegetables for more than two decades, starting with blackberries in 1990 and then adding strawberries.

They planted several rows of peach trees in 2005, and the first crop was harvested in 2008. There are also about three acres of peach trees at two separate locations.

In addition to the blackberries, strawberries, and peaches, there are also blueberries, sweet corn, tomatoes and asparagus.

Becky is the daughter of Bob Malham or Malham Orchard south of Carlinville. Malham operated Malham’s Orchard since 1980, so Becky isn’t new to orchards, especially peaches.

“I’ve been around peaches my whole life,” she said. “Dad’s a major resource, of course, in this whole orchard business. We saw that as a potential good fit for our operation as a potential source of income, so that’s where the peaches came in.”