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What's the best peach you've ever eaten? Where was it grown? In mid-July, a Serious Eater's mind and stomach turn to peaches, as Jeffrey Steingarten's did a few years ago in Vogue. At least mine (and his) do.
I have been on a lifelong search for the perfect peach, one that's so juicy you end up wearing it, one that has a perfect balance between sweetness and acidity. You might think that those of us who celebrate local food would pronounce the peach grown in our backyard the best, but I live in New York City, where there are precious few backyards. But I cannot say in good conscience and all honesty that the peaches grown in neighboring backyards and farms all over New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania are the best, either. I certainly eat more than my fair share of local farmers' market peaches from Nemeth Orchards and Stone Arch Farms, but their peaches are not life-changing affairs.
I have friends from Georgia who claim that the best peaches are grown there (yes, I know that baseball Hall of Famer Ty Cobb was nicknamed the Georgia Peach), but I have tasted many Georgia peaches, and though they can be pretty damn fine, they are not the best. Others say that the best peaches come from South Carolina or Texas or Colorado. They would be wrong as well.
No, I'm afraid I can say with more than a modicum of certainty that the best peaches come from sunny California. Some would say they come from Frog Hollow in Brentwood, and farmer Al Corchesne grows a mighty fine peach. But the best peaches I have ever put in my mouth come from Goldbud Farms in Placerville, in the middle of California Gold Rush country, and from Honey Crisp Farms in Reedley, just outside Fresno.
I recently found Honey Crisp peaches at a new farmstand on Martha's Vineyard, and at $6.98 a pound, they were a stone cold bargain. Goldbud's Ron Mansfield and Honey Crisp's Art Lange both have degrees in peachology from the University of California. They employ sophisticated growing and irrigation methods to grow peaches that will make you think you're tasting one for the first time. And isn't that how you want to feel when you bite into a peach?
You owe it to yourself to order some peaches from Goldbud. They're ridiculously expensive with the shipping (at least $5 a peach), but they're still much cheaper than caviar or those black truffles Florence Fabricant just wrote about in the New York Times.