A Perfect Day for Peaches

Peter's Market should have peaches available into early September this year.

Peters Market should have peaches available into early September this year.

The alarm went off at 6 a.m. On a Saturday. In the summer. That is just wrong on so many levels. But I was going day tripping for the first time in months, and this particular treat was several weeks overdue.

It was the first Saturday of peach season at Peters Orchards and Market in Waverly, Missouri.

My husband, Dan, and I have been making an annual pilgrimage to Peters each fall for apples. Everyone’s heard of Waverly apples, right? But somehow, we never made it to the orchard for nature’s great gift: ripe, juicy, straight-from-the-tree peaches.
Our excuse was that the timing can be tricky: last year, the peaches were early. This year, they were late (goofy Missouri weather gave us snow in May).

According to owner Paul Peters, there was a five-week swing between opening dates this year and last. But this time, we were checking the Peters Facebook page often, so we were right on top of the season.

Peach on a TreeIt was a perfect day for a drive, and that early wake-up call got us to Peters less than an hour after they opened. It was early enough that we could enjoy watching the staff carefully sorting the morning’s pick by variety and looking for slight imperfections. It’s a meticulous – not to mention itchy – undertaking, and they’re all very good at it.

Truthfully, we didn’t spend a lot of time watching because Dan grabbed a basket and we proceeded to throw the grocery budget to the wind. We discuss immediate baking needs and plan on filling the freezer with sliced peaches for future eating, crisps, cobblers, pies, fruit salad and other treats. (That’s assuming they last very long. I’ve often caught Dan squeezing the frozen peaches out of the freezer bag and eating them that way – like a big square peach-cicle).

We started with his favorite – Redhavens, a semi-cling – and loaded up on perfect peaches for eating and practically perfect peaches for baking and freezing. They rank them as No. 1 and No. 2, but my opinion is that the difference is mostly cosmetic. The mouth-watering perfume and melt-in-your-mouth sweetness are identical. We also chose some of the larger freestone Redstar peaches.

One of the things I love about Peters is the samples. I’ve discovered new apple favorites just because they offered me a taste and cheerfully answered all my questions about different varieties and their best uses. I’ve picked up other wonderful food items and gifts because of their generosity of time and product.

This trip, one nibble resulted in the most amazing seedless watermelon finding its way into our cart. So did six young ears of sweet corn and locally-grown pecans. Other local products called to us: honey, preserves, cheese curds. Come for the peaches. Stay for some other Missouri-grown amazing.

Peters is not a pick-it-yourself location, but they let us take a quick peek at the orchards. The apple trees we saw were loaded. I can already tell our fall trip will be very successful. We checked out peach varieties still ripening – Paul said he expects they should have peaches until the first week of September – and Dan said, “How about we come back in a couple weeks?”

I grew up in the big city, eating produce from cans and grocery stores. Then I met my farm-boy husband, and he introduced me to how fruits and vegetables are supposed to taste. I’m a convert. A four-hour road trip to Peters Market and Orchard for peaches and apples grown onsite? I’ll give up sleep for that any time!

Although Peters Orchards and Market is my favorite stop for a fresh produce fix, it’s one of many agritourism choices in the state. Explore VisitMO.com’s Trip Ideas to plan your own day trip to one of Missouri’s many agritourism destinations.