Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Celebrate The Peach

Celebrate The Peach
Growing up on a Casco Township farm in the 1950's meant you were surrounded by fruit farms and farm kids. In August, Peach Festivals were held at Leisure (64th street and 107th avenue). The Community Hall, the EUB Church and Riley's Handy Store were the center of activities. The Arlie and Harry Overhiser farm on the SE corner was turned into a display area for new farm equipment. Cookbooks full of peach recipes were available. Meals were served to celebrate the peach. The Casco United Methodist Church still serves those wonderful church dinners. All that remains from the fruit paradise of the 50's is a hand full of fruit farmers, the Church dinners and the memories that we survivors cherish.

From 1924 to 1963 Stanley Johnston headed up the MAC/MSU Experiment Station at South Haven and hybridized the Haven peaches. He was obsessed with developing bigger and better fruits.  From some 21,000 cross-bred seedlings the Haven peaches were selected: the Halehaven, Kalhaven, Redhaven, Fairhaven, Sunhaven, Richhaven, Glohaven, and Cresthaven. Newer and "better" peaches have been developed by others.  The peach season has been extended because of new varieties. The main varieties grown by my brother are: Red Haven, Rising Star, Red Star, Flamin' Fury (and some PF varieties), Coral Star, Loring, All Star, Red Kissed, Glow Haven and several cling-stone varieties for processing and fresh fruit.

Don't be fooled into thinking that peaches were the only fruit grown in the 1950's.  Sweet and sour cherries were harvested before the peaches. Pears and plums during peach time, and most apples after the peach.  Many early settlers brought seedling apple trees from their native states to Michigan. Early varieties grown in Casco were Yellow Transparent, Cutchess, Hubbardston, Golden Russet, Grimes Golden, Yellow Banana, Gravenstein and the Gray Stark. New varieties of fruits are always being developed. The Honeycrisp apple and the Flamin' Fury peach are just two examples.

Casco fruit farmers also grew cauliflower, cabbage, pickles and cucumbers in their open fields or between the rows of newer fruit orchards.  My dad, Albert, being a farmer and truck driver obtained two large trucks with flat beds. He then hauled his cauliflower and other farmers produce to the Maxwell Street Market in Chicago.  Many a night was spent tying the load so dad could to take off around mid-night for the early morning market.
Enjoy your August, MartinO

At The Farm August 2, 2011
Peach u-pick is in full swing at the farm and will be available through Labor Day. The Red Havens will be available after August 10.  Currently at the farm you will find all the ripe fruit and vegetables that are in season. Be sure to print out the u-pick 10% off coupons on the Overhiser Orchards website and check the receipt links such as michiganpeach.org  Slice ripe peaches and add cereal, yogurt, cottage cheese, ice cream, milk, blueberries or nothing.  With more effort you may freeze or can your peaches.

The kids summer sports activities have concluded. County Fair preparations are just starting.  The boys new chicken house is completed and the girls a having fun co-managing the animal barn.  Two new alpacas have been added to the barn family at the 109th avenue retail and u-pick site. Eat Fruit.