We are lucky at Down By The River B and B because we have fruit orchards near us in Southeastern Arizona. Being the “Lodging Hub of Cochise County” has its advantages. We are a short distance to many sights and locations. Our BnB is close to Willcox wineries and U pick orchards.
We especially love the peach picking season in August and go to an orchard called Apple Annie’s located in
Willcox. When we travel to Apple Annie’s we usually have an entire day planned out so that we can get everything done in a day. We try to stay away from weekends when the crowds are at the orchard. It makes our experience a lot more enjoyable, although we do miss the peach pancakes and ice cream that offered at the kiosks on the weekends.
The day begins early and we try to leave the B and B by 7 AM for the drive to Willcox. We leave early
so that we are picking in the cool of the morning but also so that we aren’t still processing peaches into
late evening. The elevation of the orchard is at 4275 feet, a little higher than our B and B, so it is cooler there compared to the metropolitan areas of Tucson and Phoenix. We know what type of fruit is ripe prior to arriving but when we check to verify what is left. We do dress for the orchard since it can be muddy and you can catch clothes on branches. Apple Annie’s is a U Pick orchard but they also have fruit there that is already picked for a little higher price for those who don’t want to go into the orchard.
We gather together our pails, basket picker and either a wagon or a wheel barrow. We like the wheel barrow as it has bigger tires and provides a smoother ride for the peaches. There are signs on the rows of
trees showing you which fruit is ready to pick and what type of fruit it is. Other rows are roped off as the fruit has not yet ripened. We like picking the larger peaches so we time our trip to occur when the J H Hale and the O’Henry peaches are ripe. We go up to the trees and hold the peaches. If the peach falls into our hand easily it is ripe. If you have to pull a little it isn’t and we leave it on the tree. We do this because we process the peaches the same day we pick them and we want the ripest ones. However, if you are picking then you may want to have them a little less ripe so that you can get them home and enjoy them a couple of days later. Annie’s gives you an explanation to guide you with your picking.
We usually pick between 40 and 60 pounds of peaches. Each 5 gallon bucket
holds about 20 pounds of peaches. To a lesser extent, we pick some other fruit like Asian pears and some apples. We ave some crepe recipes for the pears that we have tried. We use the apples in our Apple Stuffed French Toast and we also have an apple crepe that is good.
It takes us about an hour to go into the orchard, pick and then return to pay the bill. The peaches we pick will be used for menu items that we have for our guests. We place the peaches in brown paper bags or in boxes though not more than two layers tall. This keeps the peaches from becoming damaged when we head back home to Saint David. We learned our lesson when we had the peaches stacked into a couple of bags and found that the bottom ones were bruised and mushy.
When we get back home the fun begins. Note I use the word fun interchangeable with the word WORK!
We first take the peaches and wash them to get the fuzz off and so that they are clean for processing. We sort the peaches out with the larger ones being set aside so that we can cut them into peach rings about 1/8” to 3/16” think. To accomplish this we cut the top and bottom ends off the peach. This portion we set aside and cut up into pieces that are used for the peach smoothies we have in the mornings.
This center cut for the ring has the pit in it. Hale and O’Henry peaches are both freestone peaches. As you cut the ring around the pit, the fully intact ring will come loose from the pit. In some cases the stone falls out or is easily pulled free and you can finish cutting the rest of the rings without hindrance of the stone. On the larger peaches you might get 6 or 7 rings but usually you only get 5 or 6.
After about 4 hours of steady work you finally reach the end of the pile of peaches. We end up with a lot
of baggies full of cut up peaches for smoothies and containers with peach rings. We freeze these for later use. After cleaning up and putting things away it is close to 4 PM and we are glad to finally get off our feet and sit down to relax our aching backs. We do have the satisfaction of knowing that our guests will be getting the best tasting peaches that are available. Store bought peaches just don’t compare to what you can pick in the orchard. The flavor and the smell of ripe peaches are perfect and we are always asked by our guests where we got the peaches since the smoothies or pancakes are so good. We tell them that we spent a day picking and processing them ourselves just so that they can savor the breakfast.