How to Grow Worm-Free Peaches Without Pesticides
Wondering how to grow worm-free peaches without resorting to chemicals? This was my goal, too. Here’s how we avoid worms in our homegrown peaches…
How to grow worm-free peaches
First of all, this topic reminds me of a meme I saw recently about how to keep your house tidy while raising kids. Here was the answer: 1) You can’t. 2) Get a new dream.
It made me laugh! This line of thinking also applies to peaches in that worm-free peaches are difficult to grow without resorting to pesticides.
How to grow worm-free peaches without pesticides: 1) You can’t. 2) Get a new dream. Just kidding! Sort of. Read on…
Since I am dead set against using any chemicals on the food that I grow for my family, I do actually wind up with some worms in my peaches. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that I’m still able to use those peaches, AND I’m able to grow many peaches without worms.
Avoiding worms without pesticides
I do absolutely nothing to our peach tree, other than removing the occasional low hanging branch and harvesting the fruit each year. In other words, I use zero sprays, pesticides, or powders.
Here’s the key: you want to harvest the peaches as they are just beginning to ripen, but haven’t fully ripened yet.
The timing is tricky because if you harvest them too early, they won’t fully ripen. They’ll just stay kind of green and will never have that satisfying peach color or taste.
If you pick them too late, they’ll look and taste amazing, but you’ll have to cut out a lot of worm damage. Yuck! Not only is this gross, it also wastes a lot of time and peach flesh.
What we do is pick our peaches sort of in the middle: when most of the peaches are barely starting to ripen.
- This means that some peaches are more ripe and will have worms. Read on for how I handle this.
- This also means that some peaches are still pretty green when we harvest. Here’s how we handle the unripened peaches…
How to sort and ripen homegrown peaches
After we harvest, we all sit down and sort the peaches into three groups:
- Ripe: must be eaten or preserved right away
- Almost ripe: must be eaten or preserved soon
- Still green: must be ripened in paper bags
We sort the peaches into paper bags (the size you’d bring home from the grocery store) and literally label the bags using a marker to indicate group 1, 2, or 3.
Paper bags help to ripen the less ripe peaches in bags 2-3 while I begin dealing with bags labeled #1.
Preserve peaches systematically to avoid waste
This sorting system allows me to maximize our peach harvest. It takes me approximately one full week to process all the peaches from one mature tree.
Heaven help me when the new baby trees we’ve planted reach maturity!
My system is as follows:
- Can peaches: Can as many peach halves as possible. 4 out of 5 people in my family love canned peaches and can’t get enough. I highly recommend enlisting a helper for this process. Since it involves several steps (cutting, blanching, peeling, canning), a canning assistant will make a huge impact on the time involved. I do the cutting and blanching, while one of my sons helps with the ice bath and peeling. And then I complete the canning process.
- Can jam: Turn smaller peach bits into Peach Vanilla Jam. I usually aim for one batch of 10-12 half-pint jars per year. We especially love this jam on vanilla ice cream! It also makes a great glaze for Peach Glazed Pork Tenderloin. Bonus: this jam recipe uses honey instead of sugar.
- Freeze cobbler filling: When I reach the point of absolutely despairing of life and peaches and hope never to see another peach ever again, I make a few peach cobblers and freeze a bunch of peach cobbler filling for future cobblers.
Pro tip for processing homegrown peaches
I take great pride in growing over 70% of my family’s food and absolutely hate wasting any of it, to the point of obsessing over a few wasted peaches. However, I’ve come to realize that IT’S OKAY to skip the peaches that are particularly worm infested, or the last dozen or so peaches that never really ripened.
No food is wasted on a homestead! Every bit of food feeds my family, our animals, or the compost pile. And technically, any food that feeds our animals or the compost pile helps to feed my family in the end.
My husband and kids have to help me remember that IT’S OKAY to feed some of the peaches to the pigs. Especially when I’ve already preserved 41 quarts of peach halves, 10 half-pints of jam, and 10 cobbler fillings.
So let me encourage you to use all the peaches you can, but don’t be afraid to call it quits in order to preserve your sanity and be nice to your family.
And that’s how to grow worm-free peaches without resorting to pesticides!
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