‘Here is a basket. Go and pick some peaches from the tree to have them fresh this afternoon’, said my mother handing me the large rickety basket.
Since I was little she has always loved finding little jobs for me to do often interrupting my preferred state of daydreaming with more pragmatic ways to utilise my time.
Picking ripe peaches though was not a task I would turn down, so I gladly grabbed the basket and, even though I am a grown up now, bounced outside.
The peach tree in front of the house was heavy with fruit. My father was sitting on a chair in its shadow, tired after watering his vegetable patch.
‘Unfortunately this year the peaches are not as bountiful’, he said. ‘You should have seen it two years ago, the branches were bent beneath the weight of all the fruit. We couldn’t manage to pick it all.’
A big regret of my father is that, as I live abroad, I miss on the many things he and my mother cultivate – cherries and grapes, cucumbers and tomatoes, apples and pears. Even though I try to spend a couple of weeks with them each summer, I would invariably miss the season of at least half of the things which they grow.
This makes my father sad. This inability of mine to taste the fruit of the trees and the plants they look after with such dedication. They plant them, still tiny little seeds, wait for them to grow, then water the seedlings every day. When the time comes they prick them out in the garden, water them again, then fertilise them and do all the incessant back-breaking tasks which the cultivating of a new life incorporates.
I start picking peaches from the tree.
‘Touch each peach lightly, check if the flesh is slightly soft under your fingers. If it is, then pick it. If it is still hard, then leave it until tomorrow’, my father offers some advice, which I follow to the dot.
The yellow-red fruits are warm from the sun.
‘Do they split in two easily?’, I ask my father. This means, if you hold the peach in your palms and then press the top of it simultaneously with your thumbs, will the peach split in two perfect halves making it easy to eat and avoiding the juice running down your hands and your chin unlike if you had to bite straight into it?
‘Try one’, my father says. ‘Just wash it over in the outside sink and eat it’.
There is nothing better than to eat a fruit which you have picked from the tree at this very moment. Ripened by the sun, it is juicy to the brim, it bursts with life and has a flavour to satisfy a craving for real food.
I carefully pick the best peach and wash it slowly and thoroughly in the sink. Its round body is just the right type of soft. It hasn’t gone mushy yet, but it is no longer hard and crunchy when you chew it. Just by pressing on the skin, I can feel the juices running underneath it.
The water smooths the peach’s fuzz. A slight pressure from my thumbs and the peach splits perfectly in two halves with the stone sticking out of one. I bite in.
It is pure bliss!