All of our fruit trees have amazing stories. Here are stories about some of the important peaches in our collection
Batley peaches are amber fleshed peaches with a green skin turning honey coloured when ripe. They are late peaches and are the most incredible flavoured and textured peaches ever. I discovered them one day when I was a ‘parent help’ on a school camp at the Otamatea marae on the Kaipara Harbour. Our class trip was to the old historic places trust house along the beach from the marae called “Batley”. We entered the driveway with a class of 40 children. As we walked in I spied a seedling peach fruiting in a tangle of over grown shrubbery. ( This is now 30 years ago!). I hung back and stole a peach once the children had gone past and and I was totally blown out. I had never ever tasted anything like it in my life.. both flavor and texture were outstanding…. I knew this was a very special peach, so I began asking questions of the owners of the house and others. Batley is a registered historic places trust house, an old mansion that stood at the place on the Kaipara harbor where the old fish cannery was, it was owned by the manager of the fishery, until they fished the harbor out. It was a huge house with a ball room, still there, a huge underground wine cellar and enormous stairway that super impressed the children I was with. Around this old house had been a huge orchard including a vineyard. I was allowed to look around the area and although the orchard had not been maintained, and mostly non existant, there was a remaining fig that has the most reliable best tasting figs of all I’ve ever grown .. we called that the Batley fig, (and have none left this year), but the seedling peach I found was reputed to have been a seedling from the very old peach trees that used to grow there. There was also a grape that has proved to be the same as the grape we have in our collection called Black Dalmatian, an old Dalmatian wine grape.
Being crazy about heritage fruit trees, I knew the catalogues of the first nurseries in Northland and NZ off by heart. Because the old peaches are not super long lived trees and because they grow true to seed easily and self seed all over the place.. it is difficult to find known, named very old trees.
One day I was being shown around the old Smith homestead at Matakohe by Mavis Smith herself who was at that time 94 years old I think, she died at 101 a couple of years ago, and after looking all over the property at her 120 year old corn crib and ancient grape and apples and plums and showing us where she was still collecting sheep manure under the macrocarpas in a wheel barrow from the sheep camps, she took us back out the front to the front garden. Out there she had her beautiful glass house where she grew orchids and begonias etc etc and she had her favourite roses, and her mother’s favourite roses, and May bushes, but she also had in the front yard a fig, we now call Totara House ( the name of that home) which we now know is an Adriatic, and a peach she told me was Mamie Ross.
Mamie Ross was a name I knew from those old early fruit tree catalogues, so I really pricked up my ears. Mavis had been taking special care of that peach for her entire life, and it was still alive just!!!. We took wood of that tree that winter and grafted a tree of our own and we now have one planted right in the front lawn of our new base Kotare Village. They are another white fleshed peach, but they are super super juicy and sweet and melt in your mouth texture, unlike Batley which has an incredibly firm flesh. Both this peach and Batley are unremarkable looking peaches, you would not buy them for their looks, they are however amongst the best tasting peaches ever.
Our Christina peach is really a River peach but it is a local Northland variation that is slightly sweeter and later fruiting than the peach we call River, so we name them separately. It came into our collection from an avid fruit tree collector by the name of Mr Phil Hodges, a well known Paparoa character with a very special orchard himself.
These peaches, known to me since I moved to Kaiwaka as River peaches because they used to grow wild all around the shores of the Kaipara Harbour from 1880’s to the 1980’s. Our forebears cut down the pohutukawa so they could farm every sq inch of ground, and then the wild peaches took over and ther pink flowers replaced the pohutukawa flowers, until the aerial spraying and heavy stocking simply killed them out. Very few remain today.
I have had two people come into my life and tell me amazing stories about this peach. The first was a man who came to our place many years ago for the International Permaculture convergence from Nepal. He saw these peaches and told us they were the original peaches from Nepal, and that all the wild peaches in Nepal are just like that! I assume that is why they are so genetically stable, ie you can grow your own from seed quite easily, and they grow true, unlike most modern peaches. The second story was from a very recent visitor who had been in Kazakstan recently, and an elderly woman who was helping him buy a bus ticket insisted that he buy some of her peaches. He didn’t want them because they had greenish skins, and he didn’t think they would be good. In the end she gave them to him and he was very surprized when he tasted them and found they were the best peaches he had ever eaten! Again they are white fleshed peaches, with a greeny skin and a red blush when ripe, they are freestone so great for drying or bottling, and they have a red blush around the stone ripe February. If you only have room for 1 peach this it it!!!
This peach has a very different story to most of our others. It was an orphan! I was gifted this peach years ago maybe 34 years ago, by somebody involved in the Kumeu Research station at the time. It was a peach that was in industry peach trials looking for new commercial peaches. It was rejected because it fruits too heavily and sometimes branches need staking up so they don’t break or it has to be thinned to prevent branches breaking.
It is another one of our amazing white fleshed peaches.. and it is the earliest peach around… or used to be…. there may be others now… it is ripe in November every year, sometimes mid November depends a little on the season. They are sweet and prolific always reliable and the crops are super heavy, you do have watch the branches. I reckon that is worth it to have peaches that early that are super nutritious and not covered in spray. These peaches will only fruit well in areas that don’t have very late spring frosts however.
This peach is a gold fleshed peach. It was gifted to us by Mrs Green whose family it came from near Warkworth in Northland. It had been growing as a seedling that kept self seeding through several generations in her family, and they particularly liked it because it is like a large old fashioned Golden Queen.. really good flavour and very big, and also a freestone peach so they could far more easily bottle it than Golden Queen.
Arapohue Red Leaf
This is an unusual and very special. I was called to a home near Ruawai especially to be shown and gifted this peach years ago, because the woman who was growing it knew she was shifting and she knew how special it was and didn’t want to lose it forever.
To begin with at that time it was the first peach I had ever seen that had bright red leaves deep deep dark red!
It had a wonderful story , it was gifted to her by a very elderly Dalmatian gardener. If you ever hear of plant material veges or fruit trees from old Dalmatian gardeners listen up, they were very very good gardeners and a lot of the plant material in our Koanga collection is from these Dalmatian gardeners that were either gum-diggers or their descendants. She had called when they were ripe I was very glad to see so we duly tasted them. They are sweet and gold fleshed with a deep red skin. The red in the skin goes right into the flesh and they are freestone with red streaks going into the peach from around the stone as well.
They taste great, are very unusual, the red colouring will mean they are very nutritious and because they are freestone are easy to dry or bottle. They are a part of our special NZ heritage.