Gathering Tips: All Peach Trees Are Not Created Equal
All this time, I’ve been gathering my Peach leaves from a particular tree that grows next to the aquecia that runs through a friend’s backyard. It only gets water when the aquecia is running, the rest of the year it seems to thrive in its dry, sunny location with no added water. The tree rarely bears fruit, thanks to the late frosts common to the middle range of the mountains in New Mexico. When it does, it’s covered in masses of medium sized, firm but juicy and incredibly tasty Peaches!
The leaves, flowers and bark of this tree have always been exquisite – sweet, aromatic and strong. I was really excited when I found out another friend had multiple Peach trees in her back yard! I was sure I’d hit the jackpot, and would now have enough leaves for the summer’s tea and all my friend’s tea too. So I gathered up a big basket full and took them home to dry.
They dried to a nice fresh shade of green and I happily stowed them away in glass jars. Darcey Blue is coming to spend the weekend with us starting tomorrow and I wanted to give her some so I set aside a jar just for her. I always always test my herbs and tincture before sending them off to anyone else so I scooped up a few leaves and made myself a cup of tea with this new batch. After letting them steep for about five minutes, I figured the brew would be good and strong. I took a nice sip. Not so much. It was nice, but with only a hint of the taste pleasure from previous Peach tea drinks.
Grawr said I. What’s wrong with these Peach leaves? In the end, after making several cups of tea and comparing them and much tasting, I decided there was nothing wrong with them. They had the appropriate flavor, but were just very mild. So that batch has been relegated to the “beverage” pile, and the leaves from the original tree put in the “premium” pile. I switched out Darcey’s jar, and now she’ll be getting a good bunch of the premium batch.
I don’t really know what makes the difference between the trees – variety, soil, age, water or what. The only way to tell a great tree from a mediocre one is by checking it out sensorily (like so many things). So, what I would consider a premium tree would be one that one you gather the leaves off the tree, you can smell the sweet, slightly almondy/peachy aroma if you hold the leaves up to your face. The leaf itself will taste slightly bitter and astringent, but more along the lines of sweet and peachy with a hint of mucilage. The tea will be strong tasting without being overwhelming, full of flavor with a sweet, peachy/almondy taste. It should only be bitter if left too long to steep (optimal is about 3-5 minutes it seems, more than 10 minutes is too long).
If you’ve had a similar experience with different kinds of Peach trees, be sure to leave a comment here sharing about it. I’d love to know if other people have experienced a similar phenomenon.