Beauty of the beast Sun packed and su­per-sized – late sea­son peach de­lights

The Orchardist - - Profile - By Denise Landow

“What ex­cites me about the fruit? It’s aroma, flavour, it’s so unique,” he ex­plains.

“It’s an ex­cel­lent eat­ing peach be­cause it’s firm and ex­tremely sweet - we can get up to 19 brix. They’re rea­son­ably juicy but they don’t turn to mush. The flavours and aro­mas are strong and seem to be ‘en­hanced’. It’s nice when you place a bowl full of peaches on the kitchen ta­ble and after two hours, the whole room is filled with their aroma.

“They’re also part free­stone so you can twist them off cleanly - if you’re really good. There’s a lit­tle red colour­ing around the stone, and the skin is thin and smoother with barely any fluff.”

Carolyn says the skin is good eat­ing.

“I’ve never eaten peach skin be­fore, and I al­ways used to peel it off, but I find the Beryl De­light skin has a nice flavour as well.”

She’s also ex­per­i­mented with ways of cook­ing and pre­serv­ing the fruit. Be­fore free-flow freez­ing them, Carolyn dips the raw flesh in wa­ter in­fused with lemon juice, which stops them go­ing off straight away.

In win­ter, they cel­e­brate hav­ing sum­mer all over again. The frozen fruit is so bright and tasty when cooked. From the freezer, they go straight into the oven, driz­zled with bit of but­ter and honey and baked for 30 mins.

“It’s ab­so­lutely beau­ti­ful, we get fresh peaches in the mid­dle of win­ter,” Mort smiles.

Carolyn also makes peach pie - leav­ing skin on the slices, which are used with other ‘bits and pieces’ on pas­try - and again, when baked, the glo­ri­ous colours warm up a win­ter’s day.

Tast­ing this fruit is an ex­pe­ri­ence. Some would find hints of trop­i­cal notes, such as co­conut and paw paw. The taste is sub­tle and re­fresh­ing, and not sur­pris­ingly, Beryl’s De­light has a niche but loyal fol­low­ing.

Pol­li­na­tion hap­pens at the same time as any other peach type, so it’s the care and at­ten­tion to de­tail for many months that al­lows the fruit cope with be­ing so long in the el­e­ments.

Beryl’s De­light don’t taste like any other peach be­cause of their long du­ra­tion on the tree – up to six months, they cou­ple believe. “You’ve got to re­mem­ber, they’ve been on the tree since Septem­ber, and they’ve had all that time and op­por­tu­nity to ma­ture and gain flavour, so by the time they’re picked – they are to­tally sun packed,” Mort de­clares.

Some peo­ple like really firm fruit, while others wait for the maturity to set in. A really big piece of fruit is a meal on its own, and half a peach is enough for dessert, says Carolyn.

There’s no deny­ing it - Beryl’s De­light is a big peach by vol­ume by any stan­dard.

“Even at the pack house they strug­gle, of­ten in­di­vid­ual fruit is 100 mm round.”

The fruit has been sold com­mer­cially for 10 years, and in their best year, the small or­chard achieved 120 tonne. In an av­er­age sea­son, the vol­ume is more around 100 tonne.

“The 2017 sea­son has prob­a­bly been the worst one we’ve ever had,” says Mort.

He cites con­tin­u­ous and huge vol­umes of rain just be­fore and dur­ing har­vest. Whereas his fel­low Hawke’s Bay grow­ers ear­lier in the sea­son had a dream run of weather, it turned wet in late March.

“We had 135mm of rain in two days, and pre­vi­ous to that, 155mm, with east­er­lies in between. The pat­tern was ‘fine for a few days and rain, fine for a few days and rain’. It’s very hard on peaches, and we suf­fered a huge amount of wa­ter dam­age and rot crept in. When you can’t con­trol it, can’t do much about it,” he says mat­ter-of-factly.

Beryl’s De­light peaches at­tract the same pests as any other peach. They try to use ben­e­fi­cial sprays for in­sec­ti­cides.

“We use very few in­sec­ti­cides, if any, and only more for mites. The rest of the time we use trap­ping for car­pophilus beetle,

All 14 ac­tions rec­om­mended were suc­cess­fully car­ried out in the 2014 to 2015 sea­son, and ev­ery­one was pleased with the fi­nal out­come, says Phil.

“Brown rot losses were re­duced by up to 50% in mon­i­tor tree plots in the SGF block, and over­all yield and prof­itabil­ity were sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved.”

The suc­cess­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion of the SGF pro­gramme al­lowed Mort and Carolyn to carry on the pro­gramme over the en­tire or­chard. All in­volved are hope­ful that the re­sults will en­cour­age other sum­mer­fruit grow­ers with brown rot is­sues to im­ple­ment Peter and Phil’s brown rot ac­tion plan.

All trees in the or­chard are de­scen­dants off that one orig­i­nal tree. What ex­actly that tree was re­mains a mys­tery. Mort can’t re­call see­ing any sim­i­lar peaches from around the world. The big beak on the end pro­trudes quite sub­stan­tially – which is also quite un­usual.

The ‘in­dus­try stan­dard’ Golden Queen root stock was used – but whether this is good or not, Mort can’t say. The tree can grow wa­ter shoots 2m long in a sea­son.

With no dwarf­ing root stock avail­able at this time for peaches, there is no al­ter­na­tive to use. Mort would like a type that re­moves some of the trees’ vigour.

Be­ing the last sum­mer­fruit va­ri­ety avail­able, Beryl’s De­light gives the Niko­lai­son’s a mar­ket­ing ad­van­tage.

Other grow­ers with their late peacharines “keep the shelves open for us – they gen­er­ally fin­ish at the time we start,” says Mort.

This unique har­vest­ing time frame was also a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor in their de­ci­sion to es­tab­lish the va­ri­ety on a com­mer­cial ba­sis. They pay back­pack­ers and pick­ing con­trac­tors by the hour, be­cause pick­ing for maturity and suit­abil­ity for the mar­ket is crit­i­cal for the fruit’s longterm suc­cess.

“If you want to strip the trees, then pay con­tract rates,” he says.

For Beryl De­light’s fu­ture, the cou­ple need cus­tomers to un­der­stand that it is a unique peach which is specif­i­cally a late-sea­son seller.

“We’d like ev­ery­one to ap­pre­ci­ate it’s dif­fer­ent from other peaches; es­pe­cially its char­ac­ter, flavour, and late har­vest dates. We al­ways har­vest at the start of April, even if we have a late flow­er­ing.”

“We want peo­ple to eat Beryl’s De­light and say, ‘wow, that was really nice, I like that, I want more’ and for it to be­come an iconic New Zealand fruit. We feel at the mo­ment peo­ple see it late in the sea­son and mis­tak­enly think it’s been sit­ting in a chiller – not re­al­is­ing it’s a freshly picked fruit.

“We have to get our name out there and com­mu­ni­cate that our fruit is fresh, even though it is for sale in April.”

Mort and Carolyn en­joy be­ing or­chardists – even though it is not their main in­come earner.

For Mort, the chal­lenges that grow­ing a com­mer­cial crop presents is part of the en­dur­ing fas­ci­na­tion.

“There are so many dif­fer­ent things you’re work­ing with to bal­ance, in or­der to get a tree to the stage it pro­duces well. It’s sat­is­fy­ing to get the trees grow­ing in a good fash­ion to en­sure ex­cel­lent fruit comes off those trees.”

Now that the 2017 har­vest has fin­ished, Mort and Carolyn will re­flect. There’ll be more learn­ing and tri­alling but they still have one of the high­lights of the or­chard­ing year to look for­ward to – the Sum­mer­fruit NZ an­nual con­fer­ence in June.

From left: There’s noth­ing like a bin full of glo­ri­ous fresh­lyp­icked fruit - Mort and Carolyn show off their har­vest. Beryl’s De­light on the trees – soak­ing up the Hawke’s Bay sun. The cou­ple’s ‘go to’ trans­port – the quad bike – is a handy piece of eq

From left: After the rains – the crop losses due to rain and wind. Mort and Carolyn love the chal­lenges of or­chard­ing.

Barry Sul­li­van – the per­fect model to cap­ture data.

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