The Peaches! They're Early!

The Peaches! They're Early!
Robin Wheeler

Been jonesing for the first sweet, juicy local peach of the season? You don't have to wait as long as usual. Most years the first St. Louis-area peaches don't ripen till the end of June. So imagine Gut Check's joy upon walking into Eckert's Country Store yesterday to find tables loaded with peaches.

Not California peaches. Illinois peaches! Picked ripe from trees in the neighboring orchard!

Weather conditions gave this year's crop an early boost. Payback for 2007, when most of the crop was destroyed by a late freeze? Perhaps. Global warming? Maybe. Whatever the reason, Early Clings are ready. They're a palm-size fruit with dark, thin fuzz and bright yellow flesh.

Bite into the peach, and be prepared to change your shirt. The fruit's just as juicy as what we get in July.

Lana Shepek, Food Enthusiast (yes, that's her job title) at the Belleville store, predicts that Garnet Beauty peaches will be the next available, about June 20.

For now the peaches aren't available at Sappington Farmers Market, Whole Foods or Kirkwood Farmers' Market. But that'll change later in the season.

These early summer treats are only sold at the Belleville location. A one-quart pan (about 2.5 pounds) costs $4.49.

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