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It’s one of my favorite times of year in the garden – my peach trees are heavily laden with delicious, sweet fruit ready for picking.

Many people are surprised to learn that you can grow peaches in Arizona, but they do very well. However, they do ripen earlier than in cooler climates. May is peach season here in the desert.

My peach trees sit outside my kitchen window, and I’ve been keeping my eye on them to see when they were ready to harvest.  Finally, the day arrived, and I brought out my bushel basket and got to picking.

One peach tree can provide you with most of the peaches you need. Last year, I made peach blueberry jam, which was so good, that it didn’t last long. Today, I’m planning on making regular peach jam, but I can always buy peaches from the store at another time to make other variations if I choose to.

Every May, I haul out my water bath canner, canning jars, and spend 2 hours making delicious peach jam.

Growing peaches and making jam isn’t difficult or expensive, but there are guidelines to follow. I made a video of the process, from what type of peach trees do best in the desert, how to tell if your peaches are ripe, and how to make jam.  I hope you enjoy!

//youtu.be/jEcyAzCB-W4

Apple harvest time starts early in the desert Southwest.  In my low desert garden, it arrives precisely in the first half of June.


As I mentioned in my earlier post, this year’s apple harvest was to be a special one because for the first time, my own apple trees would provide a sufficient harvest without us having to pick the trees on the family farm.



On a bright and sunny June morning, I headed out into the potager (my kitchen garden) along with four teenagers and a 3-year old to pick apples.

We harvested 4 large bags full of sweet, tart apples from my ‘Anna’ and ‘Dorsett Golden’ apple trees, which are the varities that do best in hot, desert climates.

So, what did we plan on doing with all these apples?

Well, besides eating them raw, the plan was to make an apple pie with a cinnamon sugar crust, apple chips and applesauce.


Now, you may think that making an apple pie would be the last thing that a teenager would want to do.  But, my kids along with my niece, look forward to this day every year.

I make one pie a year, so we make an occasion of it.

Before we get any further, I’d like to tell you about the participants in today’s apple adventure.

Ruthie – my 17-year old daughter
Gracie – my 13-year old daughter
Sofie – my 16-year old niece
Gracie C. – 17-year old friend of my daughter
Lily – my 3-year old granddaughter


While Ruthie and Sofie were peeling apples, Gracie C. worked on thinly slicing the apples.


Lily and Gracie had fun watching the peeling and slicing and were waiting patiently for their turn to help.


Lily’s job was to help mix the apple slices in a bowl filled with water with some lemon juice to keep the apples from browning.


Once the apples were ready, we made the pie crust.  I use a mixture of both butter and vegetable shortening in my pie crust.  


I taught the girls how to make a decorative pie crust edge using their fingers.


This may have been their favorite part.

To add an extra special touch to the pie, we brushed it with egg wash and then sprinkled cinnamon sugar on the top.


Here is the finished product, ready to bake in the oven.  
*I’d like to note that I do not claim to be a professional food photographer like my sister.  I use no special lighting and didn’t take the time to clean the counter before taking the photo 🙂

 The kids had so much fun making the pie and couldn’t wait to eat it once it we took it out of the oven, which explains why I have no ‘after’ photos of our pie!

Now that our annual pie was finished, we got to work on our second apple recipe – Cinnamon Sugar Apple Chips.


Apple chips are ridiculously easy to make and they are addictive!


All you need to do is to slice them very thinly – a mandolin works great, if you have one.  There is no need to peel or core the apples, which makes this an easy recipe – simply remove any stray seeds from the slices. 

Lay the apple slices on a cookie sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.


Lily had fun with the apple slices with holes in the center.


We sprinkled the apples with cinnamon sugar, but this an optional step – you don’t have to add any cinnamon sugar.

Bake the apples in a 200 degree F oven for 1 hour and then turn the apple slices over and bake for another hour.

The apples should be crispy and melt in your mouth.  A word of caution – they won’t last long!

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While this photo protrays three normal teenage girls, their story is anything but average.

Their story together began years ago, before they were adopted and came to the U.S.

All of these girls grew up together in an orphanage in China.  They formed deep bonds with each other and became each other’s family in the absence of parents.  They often referred to themselves as “orphanage sisters”.

Unlike many adoptions, the girls waited until they were older to be adopted.  Sofie and Gracie C. were adopted in 2006 and Ruthie in 2007.

Along with several other “orphanage sisters”, who were also adopted, we had a reunion several years ago in Colorado and since then, both the parents and kids have stayed in touch.

Gracie C. flew into town to visit with Ruthie and Sofie and it was so wonderful seeing them together again!


**You can read about our adoption journey to get Ruthie, here.**

It’s hotter than he**  (dare I use the word “hell”?) outside in June and while most desert dwellers can be found hibernating indoors enjoying air-conditioned temperatures in the 70’s – you’ll find a few of us darting outdoors to pick apples.



While parts of the country wait until late summer and on into early fall to harvest apples – June is apple harvesting time in the desert.


Many people don’t realize that apple trees can grow in the desert Southwest – so do apricots, peaches and plums.

The key to growing these types of fruit trees is our relatively cold temperatures.  They need a certain number of “chilling hours”, which are when temperatures are within 32 – 45 degrees F.

When summer temperatures are hovering in the 100+ range, it’s hard to recall what cold winter temperatures feel like, but it’s those chilly temps that make it possible to grow apple trees.


In the past years, I have harvested my apples from among the several apple trees located on the family farm.

But, not this year.


Three years ago, we transformed our side garden, creating a “potager”, which is a French term for a kitchen garden filled with fruits, herbs, vegetables alongside ornamental plants.

In the potager, we have the largest of our vegetable gardens, blackberry bushes, two peach trees, an orange tree and two apple trees.


The apple trees are located toward the end of the garden with the blackberry bushes growing against the wall.

This was what they looked like 1 1/2 years ago.  Since then, they have grown quickly and are filled with apples, ready for us to pick.


Today, we will head out in the morning and pick our apples.  There are so many growing, that I won’t need any from the family farm.

Normally, I make applesauce and an apple pie from apples.  This year, I will make those but will add to it.  We will also be making apple chips and apple sugar.  Who knows?  If we get a ton of apples, I may need to find more things to make with them.

My daughter, Ruthie, and niece, Sofie, will help me along with a very special friend who is their “orphanage sister”.  

**Next time, I’ll share their special story along with all the goodies we make along with helpful links so you can make them yourself with apples from the supermarket.

Have you ever thought of fruits, herbs or even vegetables as ornamental plants?  

Often the characteristics that make edible plants appeal to our appetite, can also add beauty to the garden making edible plants a great choice for the garden as they can do double duty as ornamentals.

I am always struck by how edible plants are increasingly used to create beautiful garden spaces.

I’ve recently shared several of my favorite examples from my own garden as well as in during garden travels for Houzz.

I hope you are inspired to look at edible plants in a new light.

Yesterday evening, we enjoyed dinner at Double S Farms.  My mother hosts the family every week and we not only get to enjoy her delicious food, but we also get a night off of cooking.


We ate outside and the chickens surrounded us, hoping that for any food scraps. 


My mother’s vegetable gardens are doing so well and are full of lettuce, beans, artichoke and so much more.


I was so happy to see that her fruit trees are laden with little green fruit that will soon ripen this summer.  Peach, plum, apple and for the first time…..


She has two apricot trees that my siblings and I gave to her for Christmas 2010.  You can read more about our gift and how to plant fruit trees here.
 
One apricot tree has 4 little fruits and the other has a single apricot.
 
When you plant a fruit tree, the first fruit that appears is a reason to celebrate….even if there are only five of them 😉
 
How about you?  
 
Do you remember the first fruits that appeared on your fruit trees?
 
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I can hardly wait until early June to start making peach jam!