Sink your teeth into a tree-ripened South Carolina peach and let the juice trickle down your chin – now that’s the taste of summer in the South. No matter which corner of the Palmetto State you visit, you’ll find farmers selling peaches. It’s a fact that South Carolina sells more peaches than any other state. Whether you bake up a cobbler, a shortcake, put up some preserves, or prepare them for freezing, you don’t want to miss out on peach season. Let the trumpets sound in celebration as the first peaches of the season begin to arrive. In fact, it might be appropriate for the Marine Corps Band to march down Bay Street with horns blasting!
Just up the back roads from Beaufort, there’s a family in Barnwell that’s been selling peaches for five generations. Pat and Phyllis Chappell distribute under the brand of “Pat’s Pride” and the family has been picking and packing since 1927.
Follow the stretch of road winding up through the countryside into towns like Fairfax, Allendale, Kline, and on into Barnwell. The road passes by schools, centuries-old graveyards, and under shadows of ancient live oaks. Small white wooden churches dot the landscape along with rusted dilapidated tractors and farming equipment, tin-roofed shacks, and wooden sheds surrounded by overgrown jungles of pokeweed. Weathered brick chimneys stand tall in open fields. Miles of abandoned peach orchards go untended, storefronts are boarded up and restaurants remain closed. Welcome to the South.
Like many aspects of our culture, the South is changing. Along back roads, the pace slows down, but amongst the ruins are timeless treasures waiting to be discovered. One highly prized treasure is Pat Chappell Farms, just a short drive down Kings Avenue in Kline where you’ll find freestone peaches at their finest, now through the end of July.
Peaches in Cooley Springs
If you live in the northwestern corner of South Carolina, you’ll find a small community called Cooley Springs, about 6 miles west of Chesnee where the hills roll gently. That’s home to Cooley Peach Farms. Peach trees blanket the landscape in all directions as far as you can see. There’s a red-roof ice-cream parlor and restaurant on the hill, and just past that, an American flag planted with more than 5,000 flowers. Along the curve of the road sits an old-fashioned barn, with barrels of flowers and miles of red, white, and blue banners.
In the shade of the barn, white tables sit covered with red-checkered tablecloths full of fresh produce
and plenty of samples for you to taste.
If you happen to be beach-bound on State Hwy. 151, visit the McLeod Farms in McBee, South Carolina. They’ve who’ve been growing peaches in the sandhills for almost as long as there has been a town. Linger a while and visit their Antique Museum located next to the market. Travel back through the decades as you see original old tractors and plows, butter churns, and antique cars going back to the 1920s.
Artwork by Chris Wilke www.chriswilkefineart.com
This well-traveled back road to the beach, brings a brisk business to the family’s two roadside markets. Locals still prefer to visit the original, a tiny building at the gate of the packing shed on U.S. 1, but most folks stop at the modern market on a knoll a few miles away. There you need to grab a tall glass of sweet tea, sit a spell in the front porch rockers, and cool down to the soft hum of slow-turning ceiling fans. In addition to the peaches, the market has a wealth of baked goods, pickles, jams, and preserves. And don’t forget to have a tomato sandwich at the cafe with some peach cobbler and peach ice cream. When you stop there, you know it’s the real deal – tree-ripened goodness in every bite.
Cook’s in Edgefield County
Some of the best peaches in the state are grown in Edgefield County, South Carolina. Cook’s Roadside Market sits just a few feet from the blacktop on U.S. 25 in Edgefield County, about 50 miles southeast of Columbia. Look for the large beach umbrella out front with baskets overflowing with deliciousness.
If you are lucky enough to get out there and bring some home, you may want to make one of my favorite summertime desserts, Peach Shortcake. Here’s how simple it is. I learned this from my favorite baker, Minette Rushing of Savannah.
2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup sour cream
¼ cup whole milk
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons Turbinado sugar
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add the flour and sugar. Whisk to combine ingredients and set aside.
Take out another medium bowl and add the milk, sour cream, and vanilla.
Whisk to combine.
Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture. Pour the milk mixture into the well. Mix with a spoon until a wet dough is formed. Take care to not over mix the dough. It will be sticky.
Spray a baking pan with baking spray. Use a large spoon or ice cream scoop to spoon biscuit dough onto the baking sheet. Place dough close to each other but not touching.
Lightly brush tops of dough, using a pastry brush, with melted butter
Sprinkle top of the dough with Turbinado sugar. Bake ina 425-degree oven to 15 – 18 minutes, or until golden brown.
Biscuits may be baked ahead. Place in Ziploc bags and freeze. Allow to come to room temperature before using.
8-10 ripe peaches
2-3 tablespoons sugar
⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur, optional
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Peel peaches and cut into pieces. Place in a medium bowl.
Drizzle peaches with lemon juice to prevent fruit from browning.
Sprinkle sugar, cinnamon, and Amaretto liqueur over peaches and stir.
1 pint heavy cream
2-3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a large mixing bowl, add the 1 pint of heavy cream, 2-3 tablespoons of powdered sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Use the whisk attachment and mix cream until stiff peaks form.
Cut biscuit in half and on the bottom portion, add peaches and some of the peach juice. Top with whipped cream and add the top portion of the biscuit.