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Peachy times winding down

Thursday, August 22, 2002

By Nancy Anderson, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Everyone has a favorite variety of apple, be it Fuji, Golden Delicious, Gala, Rome Beauty, Stayman or Winesap.

But what variety of peach do you look for?

"People come in here and ask for 'Chambersburg' peaches," said Carolyn Beinlich of Triple B Farms in Forward.

"It drives me crazy because there isn't a variety of peach called 'Chambersburg'. That's just the name of the town where they're grown."

Last call for local peaches

Here's a sampling of farms that grow peaches. It's a good idea to call ahead to check on availability and varieties.

Beccari Farm Market, Thomsrun Road, Oakdale; 412-221-8768. Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9:30 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Kaelin Farm Market, Brandt School Road, Franklin Park; 724-935-6780. Hours: 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Shenot Farm Market, 3754 Wexford Run Road, Marshall; 724-935-2542. Hours: 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Simmons Farms, 170 Simmons Road, McMurray, 724-941-1490. Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Sturges Orchards, Route 19, Zelienople, left on Route 288, 724-752-8920. Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Trax Farms, Route 88, Finleyville; 412-835-3246. Hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

-- Compiled by Arlene Burnett


The Chambersburg, Franklin County, area has developed a cachet for its peaches, much as Idaho has developed a market for its potatoes.

There's no such variety as an Idaho Potato, either. The variety is russet potato, which is grown in many different states.

The fact that Triple B doesn't carry Chambersburg peaches has hurt its business, even though the peaches the farm market sells are the same varieties that come from Chambersburg.

"We buy our peaches from Kaelin Farms in the North Hills," she said. "Ones from our own area taste even better because they're picked fresh and don't have to be shipped."

Ripe peaches come in a range of colors from creamy white to light pink, yellow, orange and red. The flesh also can range from a pinkish white to intense yellow gold. The firmness and juiciness depend on variety and degree of ripeness.

Triple B doesn't grow its own peaches yet, but an acre of seedlings were planted last year, and Beinlich hopes to have a crop in two years. It takes four years for peach trees to mature and bear fruit.

"We've planted several varieties so we can span the peach season from July to September," she said, adding she doesn't have a favorite variety and "loves them all."

Peach lovers everywhere will agree with her.

Native to China, where they've been grown for more than 2,500 years, peaches made their way to Europe by way of Persia and to the Americas via Spanish explorers who brought the plant to missionaries in California.

The United States now produces one-fourth of the world's market crop with peaches grown in more than 30 states.

Georgia was once the largest peach producer, earning it the nickname "Peach State," but has been surpassed by California.

Although originally grown only in moderate climates, many new varieties make it possible for peaches to be grown throughout much of the country, including Pennsylvania.

A highly popular variety of peach is New Haven, a red freestone fruit that is the most-grown peach in the world.

Don Kaelin, 70, from Kaelin Farms in Franklin Park, explains why: "New Havens are an excellent peach -- very juicy, very sweet and a good shipper that doesn't bruise easily."

Kaelin says the family farm is the largest peach grower in Western Pennsylvania with more than 875 trees producing tons of the juicy fruit.

The business started modestly in 1950.

"When I was 14, I told my dad I wanted to be a farmer," Kaelin recalled. "So, he bought this farm and told me he'd give me a year. If it didn't work out, we'd move back to town."

The teen-ager sold his Lionel trains to raise money to buy 25 peach trees. They survived that trial year and so did young Don's desire to be a farmer.

Today the 85-acre farm boasts seven varieties of peaches -- Red Haven, Early Glow, Red Loring, Canadian Harmony, Glo Haven, Early White Giant and Crest Haven.

Standard trees may grow as high as 30 feet and can live up to 40 years. An 8- to 10-year-old tree can produce up to six bushels of fruit annually.

Some dwarf varieties may reach no more than 3 feet. Flowers ranging from pale pink to red appear in the spring and give way to fruits that usually ripen in mid-summer.

Kaelin's also has 75 nectarine trees, which Don describes as peaches without the fuzz. "We like Red Gold because it's resistant to brown rot and doesn't require spraying," he said.

He and son Curt, who now is in charge of production, are both graduates of Penn State and practice "integrated pest management" a farming practice that requires a minimum of pesticides.

Instead of routinely spraying, Curt goes into the peach orchard twice a week to check for bugs. If any are found, the trees are dealt with individually.

Peach season runs through Labor Day. Some varieties go longer but, according to Don Kaelin, "When the sun gets shorter, the peaches aren't as good."

If you'd rather have peaches picked off a Pennsylvania tree than unloaded from a California boxcar, you still have time.

When that sweet juice runs down your arms, you'll be glad you did.

Peach Kuchen

This delicious dish could be served either as a breakfast coffee cake or -- with a dollop of whipped or ice cream -- as a dessert. It was contributed by Bob Conrad in the "Favorite Peach Recipes" booklet compiled by McKnight United Methodist Church for its annual Peach Festival. The original recipe called for canned peaches, but we had great success with fresh.

  • 1/2 cup shortening or butter (we used butter)
  • 1 cup white sugar, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 generous cups sliced peaches
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans (we used walnuts)

Cream shortening and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Add eggs, then beat. Add flour, salt, baking powder and vanilla. Mix well.

Spread half of batter in greased and lightly floured 8-by-8-inch pan. Cover with peaches. Drop remaining batter over the peaches.

Mix remaining 1/2 cup sugar with cinnamon and nuts. Sprinkle over cake. Bake in 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. Double the recipe for a 9-by-13-inch pan.

Nancy Anderson can be reached at nanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3549.

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