Walking back from doing some errands in town last week I stopped in my local grocers, as I often do, for some fruit to eat on the walk home. There is always a table outside filled with what's new and in season. This time of year the table is always full of colour and like a child who has just seen Santa in the corner of a department store, I can't take my eyes off of it. A small handwritten sign reads, 'Stan's Tomatoes', and is placed above a huge basket full of them, all different shapes and sizes. Stan is a guy from a small town on the edge of The New Forest and for a few weeks each year you can spoil yourself on his exquisite, deep red tomatoes. There is a tub of yellow plums placed next to a tub of the regular variety which are from Devon. Cute little apricots are sat next to stacked punnets of local strawberries and there are bulbous globe artichokes lined up along the shelf. The best thing about my grocer is that there is almost always a local option, just like with the tomatoes. For new potatoes, there are some from a farm five miles up the road. Recent gooseberries have come from Wimborne, a neighbouring town, and an array of lettuces all come from Sopley on the outskirts of Christchurch.
What I really fancied today though, was a peach. I looked the peaches over and selected one that I felt would be sufficient for the stroll home. I was reaching across the table when I noticed the words, 'Spanish Flat Peaches', scribbled on a piece of card above a small wooden crate. I'd never had one before and so took one to eat alongside my other peach and compare them on the way home. No sooner had I reached the end of the road, I had to turn back. I was completely besotted by the flat peach. It was intense and subtle at the same time, its skin, which wasn't too fuzzy, broke under the gentlest pressure exposing the pale yellow, almost white flesh, swollen with juice. It was sweet, but not overly so, and as I worked my way around the tiny stone in its centre, my surroundings faded briefly into insignificance. The Big Issue sellers voice became a muffled bass line to the hypnotising hum of the traffic. Within moments, it was over, all that was left was a tiny stone and a few rogue droplets of peach juices dripping through my beard. I wanted more and I wanted it now. I bit into the regular peach, it came nowhere close. The Big Issue sellers gruff voice was grating on me now and I wanted to do anything just to get away from the drone of the traffic. In comparison it was sharp, tart and didn't emit as much juice. I would guess that this was because like most commercial fruits, my regular peach was picked before it was fully ripe. This means that the harvesters don't have to be as delicate with the fruit, it will take more of a beating without bruising. When picking fruit early, although the colour and texture of the fruit may continue to change, the flavour of the fruit will not. I cannot guarantee that my new favourite food drug, the flat peach, wasn't harvested in a similar way, but I very much doubt it due to the ethereal taste I had just experienced. I headed back to the grocers and filled a small bag with some more. They worked out at about 30p each, only 3p more than the regular peaches. I am sure there are many ways you can cook and prepare these flat peaches for desserts, coulis and juices, but I haven't got that far with them yet. Each time I have bought some, they are simply devoured as they are.
Fruits of the Forest
64 Seamoor Rd,