Cultivate Sweet Summer Moments by the Bushel

It's peach-picking time again! And whether you're picking 'em from the tree or from the grocery store shelf, now is the time to indulge in the summery sweetness of all things peachy.

First off, when picking out your perfect peach, look past the fuzz to the color underneath. The ideal peach will have a golden or yellow "under-color". Don't let the color of the fuzz fool you; the reddish "blush" is an indication of variety rather than ripeness. Ripe peaches will give a little to the touch, but be careful not to bruise them... These guys can be rather delicate.

Haysi, Va. gal April Fuller found her favorite way to enjoy peaches while on vaction: It's her Peaches and Cream Cake! "I had this [cake] at a bed and breakfast in Elizabeth City, North Carolina," explains April, "and I have searched high and low since then to find the correct recipe... this is wonderful!" Yes, wonderful AND quite simple to prepare, too. This cream-filled cake consists of a simple batter, a layer of ripe peaches and as sweetened, peach-infused cream cheese that bakes down into the cake itself. The result is a creamy dream of a dessert, and the freshness of the peaches keeps the flavor light. Perfect summertime picnic fare.

There must be something extra peachy about North Caroline, because N.C. cook Laura Young brings us another Blue Ribbon favorite: Peach Cobbler! And this isn't just any cobbler; this is quite possibly the easiest darn peach cobbler you'll ever come across. It combines fresh OR canned peaches with a few slices of bread and a sugar mixture to create something truly grand. "Every time I make this cobbler, I get requests for the recipe,," says Laura. "One of our friends said it was the best peach cobbler he had ever eaten!"

Now if you're of a pie kind of baker, be sure to check out Annette Kisser's Sour Cream Peach Pie! This recipe comes with a history as rich as its flavor. "This is a recipe passed to me by my mother-in-law, Inez Kisser of Fargo, N.D." says Annette. "As the youngest of eleven children she found her niche at age nine as the family pie baker. During threshing season this was one of the desserts served to the dozens of men and boys who came to help with the harvest." With little refrigeration back then, the cream would sour and need to be put to good use. And, well, I can't imagine any better use than this!

And finally, if you're feeling a little feisty, fire up the grill and try tossing on a few fresh peaches! Sound a little odd? Turns out it's delicious. I had a dear friend make some for me recently. The fast cooking from the grill brings out the juiciness and unique sweetness of the fruit. Simply halve or quarter the peaches, pit them, brush with a canola oil and grill! You'll be amazed at how satisfying grilled fruit -- especially peaches -- can be.

So, now who's ready for some summer sweets? Join me in making the most of the season's bounty and pick yourself a bushel of sweetness today.