August hasn't brought us beautiful sunshine, but it has brought beautiful, British produce! This month, we’re shouting about the delicious, sweet, and versatile peach - our menus are making the most of this juicy fruit, with Peach Bellini as this month's Daily Loosener and our latest seasonal recipe for Peach Melba.
Richard Gladwin visited the first farm in the UK to produce peaches and nectarines at scale - they are grown in recycled strawberry polytunnels on a farm in Kent that is sandwiched between the Thames and the River Medway, creating a microclimate with little rain. We met Alex, the woman behind the fruit, and had a great chat with her on all things peach! Have a read of our conversation below:
Q: What made you become a peach farmer and how big is the farm?
A: I didn’t intend to join the family business initially; I tried various gap years after uni in search of the dream job. After helping during a summer, I fell in love with the challenge and pure joy that comes with farming and really becoming in tune with nature. And I’ve never looked back, I’ve even managed recruit my sister too! The farm is 100 acres, with 2 acres being just for growing peaches and 3 for nectarines.
Q: How old are the trees and where do they come from?
A: Our trees are about 3 years old, and we buy most of them from Germany as the quality is incredibly high and their attention to detail is amazing.
Q: What are you looking for in your fruits to know they’re ready to be picked?
A: The darker the skin, the better. This means that they have had plenty of sunlight and will have a higher sugar content and be a lot sweeter. We pick all our peaches by hand.
Q: How does pollination work in polytunnels?
A: We have a single hive in each polytunnel with native bumble bees.
Q: Why do you use polytunnels?
A: We have tested growing our peaches and nectarines outside of poly tunnels, but these are not nearly as fruitful, their leaves turn yellow, and they are far more exposed to pests. The polytunnels are especially good in winter where we can close them up and protect the fruit from frost.
Q: How long does peach season last?
A: We’ve been picking since the beginning of July and probably have 4/5 weeks left so about 2 months total.
Q: How many different varieties of peach do you grow and what’s your favourite?
A: 3 types of flat peaches and 4 types of round peaches. I love the Royal Delicious!