This heirloom deserves to be more widely grown.
I can’t recall now where Mom originally got her rareripe peach trees. I can, however, recall the spring of the seedlings when hundreds of new little trees sprang up from the pits sown by fallen fruits. That hadn’t happened before nor has it occurred since, so I’m guessing that the conditions were just right that winter to produce a “perfect storm” of young ‘uns.
After extending our own row of trees, Mom determined not to allow the other seedlings to go to waste. So she potted up and gave away as many as she could, pressing them on all willing takers and on some who probably just were more polite than enthusiastic.
Fortunately, Mom was not the type to be easily embarrassed, and she even took some of the seedlings with her to our church conference to give away there. She also sold a few on E-bay, shipping them as far as Alaska.
“Rareripe” is an old adjective generally used to describe fruits or vegetables which ripen early. Although I’ve attempted over the years to dig up more information on peaches of that sort, about the only places I find them mentioned are in very old publications.
I’ve assumed that ours is a red rareripe, since the fruits have a red blush sometimes both on and under the skin, perhaps similar to one called ‘ Morris’ Red Rareripe’ grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. I’ve also seen mention of ‘Prince’s Red Rareripe’ ‘Martin’s Rareripe,’ ‘Pratt Rareripe,’ and ‘Late Red Rareripe.’ Those cultivars' fruits often are described with adjectives such as “productive,” “melting,” “highly flavored,” and “excellent.” There apparently were yellow varieties too, sometimes called “lemon rareripes,” and I’ve even seen mention of white types.
The peaches from our trees are quite small, probably not surpassing 3 1/2 inches or so in diameter—and those are the larger ones! However, the flavor of the seemingly heirloom fruits is superior to that of any more modern varieties we have purchased in the supermarket.
Speaking of old times, peaches were originally introduced to the Americas by the Spanish and spread so rapidly with the help of Native Americans that later settlers often thought that the trees, too, were native here. Perhaps ours are descendants of one of those “wild” ones.
Because peach trees have a habit of dying out here in Zone 5, Mom hedged her bets by planting lots of them. We still have about fifteen, so I’m guessing they are hardier than most other peaches too. In years such as this one, when there aren’t any late frosts to kill the blossoms, we are inundated with far more of the fruits than we can use. (On years when there are late frosts, we may get no crop at all.) Since there already were many jars of them lined up in the fruit cellar, this year I just peeled, sliced, and froze several quart bagfuls to use later for pies, in addition to cooking up a few pints of peach butter.
Because we don’t spray our trees, the fruits have their share of blemishes, which would make them difficult to give away. And I have to admit that they are more tedious to process than larger ones would be. So a lot of the fallen rotting peaches go to the pigs, who enthusiastically crunch them up—pits and all—without appearing to suffer any digestive aftereffects. I suspect we could get larger and better-looking fruits simply by pruning and spraying the trees, as well as thinning the peaches, but who has time for that?
Although rareripes are supposed to be early, ours generally don’t ripen until September. However, the climate here is far different than that down in traditional peach raising regions!
If you would like to try sowing a tree yourself, keep in mind that growing from seed only works well for the near-wild varieties such as the rareripes. More modern cultivars won’t come true. Since peach pits require the same pretreatment as apricot pits, you can find instructions for them in my article: How To Start a Tree from an Apricot Seed.
At Mom’s funeral our pastor compared the fruitfulness of her life to those peach seedlings she gave away, which now are bearing fruit of their own all over the country. I suspect those trees well may outlive the rest of us too.
Photos: The photos included in the article are my own.