Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Foraging Report : End-of-Summer Peaches

I've recently joined a Homesteading Circle, and I'm still on a high about it.

For our first meeting we picked a plum tree clean, ending up with huge bowls and buckets full of plums that we converted into plum chutney.  Projects like canning large quantities of fruit can be tedious alone (pitting all those plums!) but are perfect to do in groups.  It's what our grandmothers did, right?  Hours later, the kitchen smelled like cloves and condensation ran down the kitchen windows, and we had jewel-like jars of deep-purple goodness.

But I actually want to tell you about the peaches.

A friend from my Homestead Circle tipped me off to a peach tree in a vacant lot near Ashby BART that she hadn't been able to harvest before she left town.  I was excited enough that, despite the blast-furnace heat, we decided to head over with our improvised fruit picker - a long wooden pole with a basket at the end, with a claw made from twisted-wire to grab the fruit above it.  (It works ok. But a real fruit picker is definitely on my Christmas list.)

It was the end of the season for this tree, and at first we thought we had come too late.  We gathered about 20 in the end, and their smell kept wafting up at me all the way home. Foraged fruit is likely to be less perfect than what you'll find in the supermarket, but if you're willing to overlook a few blemishes, you'll be richly rewarded.  We ended up with more than enough for a pie.

After we cut off the bruises, we had a disagreement about whether you can leave the skins on for a pie.  I was shocked to hear it was a possibility - I remember my mother skinning peaches growing up, and I'd never thought to do it differently.  My partner convinced me that peach skins will basically melt during their time in the oven and it would be silly to spend the time peeling them, especially when there are more nutrients in the peel anyway.  Still skeptical, I decided to go along with it.

The result?  I wouldn't say the skins "melted." While the texture was perfectly acceptable and the taste was great, you could still tell the skins were there and it wasn't what I think of as a peach pie.  I want loose, golden peaches slipping out from under the flaky crust.  While very good, this was ... different.  Next time, we'll do it my way!

Here's a crust to go with your peaches...

Wanda Sue's Cuisinart Pie Crust
Wanda is my mother-in-law, and she rocks.  This is the easiest, most fool-proof pie crust I know, yet still delicious.

2 1/4 c flour (use up to 3/4 c wheat flour, with the rest white)
1 tsp salt
3/4 c shortening (I usually use part non-trans-fat shortening, part butter - both chilled)
4 Tablespoons COLD water

Mix the first three ingredients together in the Cuisinart.  With the machine still running, add all the cold water at once, and continue with the machine on until a ball of dough forms (less than 10 seconds).  As soon as the ball appears, turn off the machine.  Dough is ready to be made into two crusts.  Divide into two equal balls and refrigerate for an hour.  Roll each ball out onto waxed paper, which you can then flip over into the pie pan.  So easy!


  1. Hi, I am a suburban homesteader and a forager. This year I have foraged for grape leaves, blackberries, elderberries, and buckets of apples. I would love to find peaches or plums. Good luck on your blogging.


  2. How did you find a homesteading circle to join? I'd love to find something like that. I've been canning and pickling and jamming on my own out in Berkeley...

  3. Alice - it happened really organically! I held a neighborhood coffee at my house and met three amazing women who I shared so many interests with... we decided we should start meeting up every so often to share our skills, and decided to call it a Homesteading Circle. It felt like we invented the concept, although I'm sure others do this as well. My suggestion is to go to places where you may meet other homesteaders - classes, community gardens, work parties etc and if you connect with folks, make the suggestion! good luck with it.