Fishing and Other Stuff: Peaches Are Coming?

Local Fruit is on the way. Young green apples photographed by George Morse, Valley Daily Post.

Fishing and Other Stuff: Peaches Are Coming?

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

It was a surprise that while researching apples I discovered that China produces nearly half of the world’s crop. Another surprise awaited me. It turns out that China produce more than half of the world’s crop of another popular fruit-peaches.

Peaches are native to northwest China where they have been cultivated for thousands of years. They are now grown throughout the world in temperate climates. They cannot be grown in tropical areas because the trees require a certain amount of cold weather.

Peaches are related to almonds. Nectarines and peaches are nearly identical. The difference is nectarines lack the gene that produces the fuzzy skin of peaches. Without fruit peach trees and nectarine trees look exactly the same.

Although there are a few peach varieties that have red flesh (Indian Blood), most peaches are either yellow-fleshed or white-fleshed. Yellow-fleshed peaches dominate the market. White-fleshed peaches have seen an increase in popularity recently. White-fleshed peaches are usually sweeter with less acidity than yellow peaches.

Elberta is probably the most recognized of the yellow-fleshed peaches. Belle of Georgia is a commonly-planted white peach.

Spanish settlers introduced the peach to North America, where it became popular with the Native Americans. The Navajos (Dine) planted peach orchards in the Canyon de Chelly.

Peaches have a very short shelf life and cannot be stored for long. They are usually canned or frozen if not eaten fresh. They can also be dried.

Because they cannot be stored, most peach farmers plant different varieties with different times of ripening so they have a constant supply of fresh fruit.

Growing peaches in Northern New Mexico can be challenging, because the trees bloom relatively early in the spring and a late frost can wipe out a crop. Winter temperatures below about -10 degrees can injury the blossoms even when the trees are dormant. Cold temperatures in February during the cold winter of 2011 damaged the blossoms of peach trees throughout the Española and Northern Rio Grande Valley, leading to trees that did not even bloom that spring.

Locals will likely remember that winter as the time the supply of gas was shut off to communities in Northern New Mexico and we shivered for days during sub-zero nights before the gas was turned back on.

Since tree-ripened peaches are so soft it is nearly impossible to ship them without damaging the fruit, peaches you buy in the supermarket have been picked while still firm. There is a world of difference in the taste of a peach that is ripened on the tree and one that has been picked while still hard so it can be shipped.

To experience that difference, buy your peaches locally. It looks like there’s going to be a good crop in the Española Valley and in Northern New Mexico. Look for them at farmer’s markets beginning in July.

You can also plant your own peach tree. They don’t grow very big and the size can be easily managed by careful pruning. They have beautiful pink blossoms in the spring.

On the fishing scene, the snow is melting fast in the high country. The rivers are swollen with runoff. The Rio Grande here in Española is running strong at over 3,000 cubic-feet-per-second. That makes for great rafting and kayaking, but lousy fishing.

Releases into the Chama River below El Vado Dam and Abiquiu Dam both exceed 1,000 cubic -feet-per second, so fishing there will be difficult. Recent reports from the Vallecitos River indicate that the wild brown trout are hitting spinners and worms. Although still running high, the upper Chama River is dropping and I’ll be keeping tabs on it because this is one of my favorite fishing spots.

Fenton Lake and Hopewell Lake, along with Laguna del Campo, have recently received stockings of bigger-than-average rainbow trout. Fenton Lake can produce a big brown trout, while Hopewell holds some nice brook trout. All in all, June promises to be a great month to fish.