Donut, saucer, Saturn, call it what you will, this juicy little white peach is cotton-candy sweet with a hint of almond.
It’s also a complete pain to grow, according to Henry Chiles, owner of a century-old family farm in central Virginia.
Of his 500 acres of yellow and white peaches and nectarines, Chiles is obsessed with the 100 acres of donut peaches he planted in 2001. He first tasted them in California, and was determined to try growing them on the east coast.
His blushing beauties are at their peak right now, available in Loblaws stores under the Crown Orchard label.
“It’s a hard piece of fruit to grow,” he said in an interview this spring. “We do everything by hand, including the packing.”
Because the delicate peaches, native to China, are prone to cracking, he can only sell 50% of the ripe fruit – and that’s in a good season.
“Every year we think we’ve figured out something,” he says,” but it doesn’t always work. The crack starts at the stem end and you can see through it.”
Since Chiles insists on picking peaches ripe, his hired hands will climb each of his 20,000 donut trees 10 times before the short season winds down in mid-August.
“If you can pick them tree ripe and give people quality fruit, they’ll always come back for more,” he says.
Plastic clamshells have proven to be the best way to protect the fruit for the trip north, he said.
“Demand in Canada hasn’t been as good as the U.S.,” he says. He hopes that will change once we try his little gems.
The small pit in the centre is fairly easy to cut out, making a true donut shape. You can grill cut halves and add them to a chicken salad, or place a scoop of ice cream in the centre for dessert. At 50 calories each, this is one sweet and healthy little treat.