Peach-less In Carolina
Unless you're a peach farmer, you may not have noticed that 2015 was a terrible year in the Carolinas.
But that's what we discovered when we pulled up to Dori Sanders' place for our end-of-season expedition a few weeks ago. There were no peaches for sale at the Sanders' family farm stand in Filbert, S.C. The wooden plank shelves were all but empty.
Up the hill, we could see the trees laden with rosy-gold fruit under a bright blue sky. What could explain such a scene?
My friend and I scrambled up the dusty, dry road. And that's when we saw it: The peaches on those trees were tiny, like miniatures. Mostly ripened, some were as small as walnuts and none were bigger than a kiwi fruit. It was the result of too much heat and too little rain for weeks on end this past summer.
With Sanders' permission, we ate a few of the prettiest ones. They were as sweet and juicy as you'd ever dream a peach could be. But with nearly as much pit as fruit, they were completely unsaleable.
And so we strode back down the hill to where Sanders had some pretty good-looking tomatoes for sale.
For those not familiar with her story, Sanders became a published author in the 1990s while working with her siblings on her family's farm, one of the first belonging to African-American land-owners in the region. Her first novel, Clover, won the Lillian Smith Award "for Southern literature that enhances racial awareness." Dori Sanders' Country Cooking brought her to a national audience of readers who loved good food and good storytelling equally.
As a result, farm stand customers who must leave without peaches when they visit can buy books -- and still bring home something to savor. So that's what we did.
Up the road, some larger farm stands were selling normal-sized peaches. We knew they'd been trucked in from someplace else where the weather had been kinder. At one place, my friends bought a few peaches, so as not to disappoint the friends they'd promised one last delivery of summer fruit.
For the life of me I don't think I could find that place again. There just wasn't anything memorable about it. No matter the weather, no matter the season, I'm happy to keep taking my chances with that little family farm -- the one down the road in Filbert.