Rick Millians

Rick Millians

I used to work with a lady from Gary, Ind., at the newspaper in Columbia, S.C.

Ask her anything, and she always had a one-word answer.

"How are you today?" I'd say.

"Peachy," she'd say.

"How do you like these 100-degree days in the South?"

"Peachy."

"What are the chances of us making our (newspaper) deadline tonight?"

"Peachy."

It was almost sacrilege. How could someone from Gary, Ind., the definition of a Rust Belt steel town now down on its luck, appropriate such a Southern word as peachy as her own?

Well, it's a free country. And nowadays, the Georgia peach crop ain't what it used to be.

Georgia, "The Peach State," is living on borrowed time. In fact, South Carolina produces more peaches than Georgia. Riding through Peach County (and other rural parts of Georgia), it seems as though peach trees are being bulldozed and pecan trees are being planted. Maybe Georgia should become "The Pecan State."

But what's got me down is the demise of the queen of Georgia peaches, the Elberta. Elberta peaches, ready in mid-to-late July, are tender, sweet and juicy. (And freestone, so the fruit falls right off the pit.)

Elberta peaches were introduced in Georgia by Samuel H. Rumph in 1875. 

Lane's, the peach- and produce-producing behemoth near Fort Valley, doesn't grow Elbertas anymore.

A Lane's employee told me they stopped growing Elberta's a couple of years ago because, basically, they're too much trouble. They have to be picked when they are almost ripe, making them vulnerable to brusies and abrasions on the conveyor belt. (As opposed, of course, to picking other peaches when they're still green and hard as a baseball.) 

Brown's, just down the road from Lane's toward Montezuma, has been advertising like crazy that it has Elbertas. Well, they might be growing some, but we went there twice this summer, and they didn't have any Elbertas either time.

(Montezuma, by the way, has signs advising residents and visitors to keep their fair city "Peachy Clean.")

But we'll survive. We came home with three big boxes of O'Henry peaches. They're delicious, too.

As a matter of fact, I've never had bad peach cobbler. You can read all those recipes in Food Network Magazine or Southern Living Magazine for desserts like peach-corn cobbler, peach-plum galette or peach-mango shortcakes.

Just give me straight-up peach cobbler: peaches, flour, milk, sugar and butter. It's also outstanding a la Mode. My wife Wanda makes my favorite. 

Peach cobbler is good almost anywhere — and sometimes famous, too. Ask any of the foreign writers covering the Masters what they like best about coming to Augusta National Golf Club and nine out of 10 will mention the peach cobbler right up there with the azeleas.

"Augusta trips meant seeing legends — and peach cobbler," was the headline on a story in "The Times" of London.

I agree. The Augusta National dining room peach cobbler is delicious, but the peach ice cream sandwiches they sell at the Masters concession areas are pretty darn tasty, too.

I mentioned in an earlier column about wanting to make some homemade peach ice cream this summer. Well, we found our electric ice cream churn — two of them, actually — deep in a closet. I don't think they had been used in 40 years.

We cranked one of those up, but despite using three big bags of ice and almost a box of rock salt, we never could get the ice cream to freeze. So we had peach milkshakes and put the rest in the freezer to eat later. It was delectable. 

Sorry, I've got to go. I'm getting dirty looks. We've got peaches to peel, slice and freeze.

We'll be glad when we've got peaches to eat in the winter. 

Rick Millians, a 1970 Baldwin graduate, worked at newspapers in Georgia, Ohio and South Carolina before retiring. He can be reached at 803-331-4290 or rdmillians@aol.com

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