It’s Just Peachy in Delaware

Delaware is well known for its delicious, fresh peaches. Peach orchards were first planted in northern Delaware and spread southward with the building of the railroad in the 1850s. By the time the railroad covered the entire state, Delaware had over 800,000 peach trees. Delaware.gov states that “Peach farming is an important part of Delaware’s agricultural heritage, as the peach was introduced to Delaware in Colonial times and expanded as an industry in the nineteenth century. Delaware was the country’s leading producer of peaches for part of the nineteenth century, at its peak, shipping six million baskets to market in 1875.” Peaches were so prominent in the First State that passage of the state flower as the Peach Blossom took place on May 9, 1895. 
 
Around the early 1900s, a viral disease known as “peach yellows” spread throughout the state by aphids. The once thriving peach orchards began to succumb to the disease. Most trees died before a treatment was discovered.
 
Peach orchards were replanted throughout the state. Peaches were handpicked by workers of all ages and sizes. According to “Crops and Markets” published by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, April 1929, farm labor in Delaware for the year 1928 was paid $2.50 per day without board.
 
Picked peaches were sent to canneries thoughout the state to be processed and shipped. Peaches were again heavily harvested after World War II. But the top state rating was never recovered. 
 
A group of fifth and sixth-grade students at St. John’s Lutheran School in Dover, suggested that the state adopt the peach pie as it’s official dessert. As recognized on July 30, 1999 in House Bill No. 99, it became official. The Delaware General Assembly “believes peach pie as the official state’s dessert to  be appropriate and that such designation will enhance development and tourism initiatives by creating new opportunities for festivals, fairs, recipe contests and other cultural activities.”
 
Here’s a few peach facts worth mentioning. One medium peach is about 50 calories. They are a great source of vitamin A and C. It also contains 2 grams of fiber and 1 gram of protein.
 
There are over 700 varieties of peaches. White peaches are generally sweeter, with yellow peaches being more tart. Each peach contains a center pit that must be removed. The peach skin has a velvet texture. Of course, this is where the phrase “peach fuzz” originated.
 
When selecting or picking peaches, a sweet aroma usually indicates the fruit is ready to eat. Peaches are ripe when they are slightly soft to the touch. Overripe fruit is usually brown, bruised or wrinkled. Avoid those. If they are firm, place in a single layer at room temperature for one to three days to ripen. Handle peaches gently as they bruise easily, hence the saying “bruise like a peach”.
 
Peaches were once known as Persian apples. There is mention of peaches as early as 79 A.D. in literature. The term “you’re a real peach” originated from giving a peach to a friend that you liked. That tradition of yesteryear is gone today. Let’s enjoy some peaches while they are fresh and in season.
 
Peach Pie Recipe
Pie Crust:
 
3 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening
1 beaten egg, plus enough cold water to 
make 1/2 cup
Mix flour and salt together, and cut in shortening with a fork until it is the consistency of coarse corn meal.
 
Add the egg and water mixture, and mix well with a fork. Form into a ball. Divide the dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for 10-20 minutes. Roll out to form pie crust. Will make 2 crusts, or enough 
for 1 double crust or 1 lattice top pie.
 
Peach Pie Filling:
 
6 cups peeled, pitted and thinly sliced peaches
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
 
Mix peaches, sugar, and flour together and pour into a pastry-lined 9 inch pie plate.
 
Cut out strips of pie crust, weave the strips over and under to form the lattice top of the pie.
Seal and flute the edge with your fingers. Brush the top crust with an egg wash, if desired.
 
Place the pie plate on a foil lined cookie sheet, and cover edges with foil. 
Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes, then remove foil from edges and bake an additional
20 minutes.