As a Georgia boy, I have grown up under the shade of pecan groves and amidst the rows of peach fields. In fact, the Peach County line is only a stone’s throw from my home. Growing up on a farm lent the opportunity for an education with nature as professor, learning in relation to the seasonal and native crops perennially noting the time of year.
Each season is marked by its produce in my mind, a marking that has imprinted itself into a garden living mindset and thus lifestyle. I know we’ll have blackberries in late spring and summer, followed by peaches, watermelons and wild plums, muscadines and scuppernongs in late summer and into fall and finally pecans in the year’s latter months. From the brambles and briars yielding scores of deep purple blackberries to the fields laden with peaches, I have come to rely and respect nature’s bounty for its simplicity, its flavor, and beauty.
Meals and tables will be adorned with dishes themed with the seasonal offerings from our fields and gardens. Cobblers, sauces, jams and jellies, conserves, crumbles and chutneys will grace our tables and tongues with seasonal splendor. Peaches and blackberries, ever so versatile, will comply with any of the above delicacies and are my favorite summer delights.
Bowls of peaches or blackberries are strikingly elegant and simply beautiful. Tiny boughs of blackberry tucked into arrangements or alone in a jelly jar make for delightful bouquets. Yet, one of the most intriguing and attractive elements these fruits offer is their color combination and thus visual complement.
Peachy pink fuzz, delicately orange, bodes for a contrast with the richness of aubergine, a depth of purple beyond grape or amethyst. Thrown together in a cobbler or together as salad, the two make for a salient display of nature’s beauty. A garden lifestyle is enhanced with combination of fruits from the garden or local fields as sustenance and décor, thus making them a mainstay for your table and home.
Though an entire peach orchard may not suit your garden, seek out your local grower and brush up on the different varieties of peaches. White Peaches are succulent and sweet. Their “season” marks one of my favorite weeks of year. Lighter colored skin and “meat,” these champagne tinted peaches are more so floral tasting than “peachy” and are totally interchangeable with their yellowy flesh cousins in recipes. These peaches are just stunning and simply elegant in a dish and a highlight during peach season.
As for blackberries, a garden can boast a blackberry patch with ease. Many newer varieties are more fastigiated or columnar in growth, not crawling all over the garden. Cultivars from ‘Black Butte’ to ‘Black Satin’ have become readily available to gardeners and growers alike. Yet, discovering a favorite patch at the edge of a wood or along a fencerow may be my favorite method for blackberry cultivation. Picking blackberries with my sisters in the early summer is a welcomed memory, especially knowing that the fruits from our forages would be Mimi’s Blackberry Jam or Blackberry sauce for fried pies and fritters.
Garden living, whether the plot is yours or that of a friend, is a life enriched by nature’s bounty. Let alone a source of sustenance, fruits from the garden provide beautiful reminders - in silver bowls, earthen dishes, and baskets alike – of the season on our tabletops. Arrangements brimming with blackberry stems or branches of peach blossoms can be quite elegant and a welcome invitation for garden living. Take note of your surroundings and enrich your home, table, and garden with the lovely specimens nature provides – especially when the specimens can be turned in to jelly and cobblers!