Forget the mealy ones you’ve been eating and try the real deal.
If you’re buying your peaches at the grocery store—you’re doing it wrong.
At least, that’s what Stephen Rose, founder of The Peach Truck in Nashville, TN, would say. Speaking by phone from Nashville as he prepared for the busy summer season, Rose said, “peaches are so sensitive, and take on the environment of their surroundings. If you leave it in the fridge for two-to-three weeks like they do at grocery stores, it’s going to taste like a fridge.”
As a Georgia native, Rose had never been “…subjected to a grocery store peach or a peach in high-fructose corn syrup” until he moved to Nashville, which he called “a peach desert.” Together with his wife, Rose came up with a solution to the peach problem: the Peach Truck, a rolling farmstand that brings peaches straight from a Georgia orchard to towns across the Midwest on an annual summer tour. Luckily for us, the Peach Truck will be making its second seasonal pass through Columbus in late July.
The Peach Truck only sells in bulk, offering 25-pound boxes of peaches for $40 (whole pecans from the same Georgia farm are also available for $14 per pound). While this sounds delicious, what is one to do with 25 pounds of fruit? Rose assures me that there are plenty of options.
“Peaches often get stuck in the dessert category, and they don’t have to,” he said. “You can do a lot of savory things with a peach … put them on burgers [or grill them] with olive oil, goat cheese and balsamic.” He’s also seen peaches used as ingredients in condiments such as ketchup, relish, and barbecue sauce. This is not to discount peach desserts, of course. “I can’t imagine anything better than cobbler with vanilla bean ice cream on top,” he said.
If, after trying these recipes, you still have peaches left over, they also freeze well. “It’s the magical taste of summer in the middle of a brutal Ohio winter,” he said. “The biggest complaint we get [from customers] is ‘I didn’t get enough.’”
Running a family peach business leads to some crazy stories, the first being the acquisition of the truck itself. In need of a new car to commute to his old job, Rose scoped out a 1964 Jeep truck in a Walmart parking lot that the owner was asking “way too much” for. Undeterred, Rose proposed a swap, offering to trade his Thunderbird for the truck. It was “the best deal I’d ever made,” Rose said. “I drove that for a year and a half until I quit my job to [start] The Peach Truck.”
This summer, The Peach Truck will crisscross six states over the course of a month and a half. The logistics of this are organized to ensure customers get the freshest peaches possible. “The peaches are picked in the morning, on a truck to Ohio that afternoon, and we’re selling them the next morning,” Rose said. While he doesn’t know the exact variety of peach that will be available when the truck comes through town, that’s a good thing. “We bring up what tastes amazing this year,” he said, explaining that they’ll send the peach that’s currently peaking from the 40 varieties grown on the farm. “To bring the farm to people where they are is an incredible experience,” he added. “It’s kind of a mini-peach festival at every stop.”
Columbus has another bond with The Peach Truck thanks to a collaboration with Jeni’s Ice Cream that started in Jeni’s Nashville shops a few years ago. “It was so groundbreaking—the flavors, the way Jeni’s does business,” Rose said. “We reached out and said, ‘we have the best peaches in the world, you have the best ice cream in the world. Jeni created this sweet cream biscuit and peach jam [flavor that is] salty and sweet in each bite.” It’s available seasonally.
When peach season is over, Rose and his wife take time off to spend with their three kids as they prepare for next season. This year, they’re organizing their first holiday market, adding to their already packed schedules. “Our summers are insane with seven days a week of nonstop work. [In the off season we] enjoy the fruits of our labor,” Rose said. He laughs and adds, “that’s a bad pun.”
The Peach Truck will be making its second pass through the Columbus area July 19-21. Until then, I’m going to be dreaming of that cobbler.
The Peach Truck tour schedule and recipes are available at thepeachtruck.com.