The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

The reason peaches ripen in summer

Summer also is a time for outdoor farm markets.There’s a reason peaches ripen in summer.

Winter is too cold to eat them outdoors, which is assuredly the best place to sample them when they’re slurpy ripe. Each bite dribbles down the chin and stains the shirt with sugar-laden syrup.

Those suede-clad yellow and orange orbs are best sampled outdoors where a person can bend slightly forward, allowing the excess to drip on the ground, sweetening the day for ants and other creatures we would rather not invite into our abode. (They will come in anyway, come winter, but mostly they’ll remain invisible.)

Left on their own, the peaches would fall to the ground, where their juicy flesh would fertilize the landing zone and, if conditions be right, the pit would hatch and take root. A new generation would, given time and the right mixture of sun and rain, grow tall above the grass and give birth to another fruitful generation.

To eat them indoors is to sever that lifeline, sending the pit to a barren landfill, the waylaid dribble to the ocean.

Strawberries also conveniently ripen in summer. When I was a kid, Mom would take us to the Pick Your Own field. The owner sat by the entrance at a table with large boxes of predetermined capacity, and my siblings and I would get to “work,” the word in quotes because, well, there is work, and then there is picking strawberries.

The gentleman at the table often threatened to weigh me when I arrived and when I left. One for the box, two for the mouth was the rule.

Picking from those low bushes was back-breaking, but the taste of fresh strawberries made the labor way more fun.

Think how difficult that would be with a foot or more snow covering the berries in winter.

Later in life I had reason to think it had been easier picking when I was younger, and built closer to the ground. Even so, it’s not all that bad with a pair of knee pads to cushion one’s passage down the rows of succulent red fruit.

After a day of picking berries, mom made shortcake – I suppose the berries would have fallen too easily from atop tallcake. She spooned cream from the top of the gallon milk jug – we got our milk straight from the cow, non-homogenized – and whipped it into the desired desert topping.

First you slice the shortcake open and make a strawberry sandwich. Place a dollop of whipped cream atop the berries to hold them in place, then another layer of berries, another spoonful of cream, and a single whole berry to crown the royal creation.

In those days, I spent much more time than I do now wandering in the forest, splitting firewood, raking hay, and myriad other chores not required for life in town with computers. Unfortunately, as is readily noticeable, when I got away from the chores, I failed to move an equal distance away from the strawberry shortcake.

Strawberries always are good for eating; unfortunately, they still come too often in the company of whipped cream – and not the kind in the spray can.

Peaches and strawberries do not, of course, monopolize summer eatability. Blackberries flourish where trees have been newly harvested, opening the shrubs to sunlight and rainfall. Blueberries grow eagerly on well-sunned rocky mountainsides. Both are exquisite delicacies when spilled by the handful over a bowl of morning cereal and dampened with a few ounces of milk

But there is no competition for a sun-ripened peach. It makes no matter whether its flesh is yellow or white.

Only that it dribbles in summer.

Thanks for coming along. I hope you enjoyed the ride. Comments are welcome, and please feel free to share.


  1. Michael Pasinski

    September 5, 2019 at 21:20

    Hi John… I met you next to the cemetery last Monday and thought I would peruse your stories. I am enjoying them, as I enjoyed your oral story telling skills on that lazy Labor Day afternoon. It was great meeting you, and I will read more later… one or two at a time. They are better appreciated if I let the imagery settle in, if you know what I mean. Best… Mike

    • Thanks for visiting. It was indeed fun talking with you. Bring friends and we’ll continue the conversation.

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