Grow Your Own Peaches, Cherries and Plums
Thanks to balmy summer heat and refreshing rains, Ozarks summers provide near-perfect conditions for stone fruits. With a few expert tips, you can soon grow your own crop of fruit trees.
Fresh peaches pair with yellow cake and freshly whipped cream for the perfect summer dessert.
You might dread summer in the Ozarks, but stone fruit trees, including plums, pears, peaches, cherries and apricots, love it. The warm summer temperatures and regular rain showers are just what these fruit trees need. So next time you start weeping over the drenching humidity, embrace our balmy climate and grow your own fruit trees. Interested? Thomas Pluth of Purple Gate Farm in Highlandville, Missouri, grows plums, apples and peaches for a living and has advice for those looking to grow fruit trees in their backyard.
Before you start planting, consider your space. “A lot of people don’t realize how tall fruit trees can get,” Pluth says. “We have some plum trees that are 20 feet tall.” To avoid dangerous heights, look for dwarf or semi-dwarf varieties. These usually grow to be 6 to 8 feet tall. Be sure to check out local nurseries before heading to a big box store. Trees at local nurseries will be acclimated to our area, according to Pluth. Another tip Pluth has: Check out state nurseries at the Department of Conservation. They often have tree sales at the end of each year, and because they sell native Missouri tree species, you can help repopulate native trees.
If you’re looking for an early bloomer, plant plum trees. These usually blossom first, plus they’re great pollinators and attract butterflies and bees. The trees need well-drained soil, which is a given in the Ozarks’ clay-rich soil, and Pluth says it’s important to prune your plum trees. “Fruit tends to grow on new growth of the tree,” he says. “In order to keep fruit from growing on the top where it’s hard to reach, you’ll need to prune your trees.”
When it comes to peaches, Pluth says the hardest part is keeping pests away. Organic gardening can be tough, but luckily, Purple Gate Farm has figured out a few successful organic methods. Pluth recommends spraying your peach trees with kaolin clay to form a barrier that most pests don’t like. Another trick is to plant decoy trees, like mulberry or elderberry, that attract the bugs and help keep them away from your prized peaches.
Once you do the work, plan to wait a little bit. Dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties can take three to four years to start producing. But once your trees have matured and you’ve harvested your first crop, it’s time to relish the results of all that TLC and head to the kitchen. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite stone fruit recipes with the help of Robert Stricklin from The Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks and the talented cooks and chefs at the Springfield-based Food Channel.
Peaches and Cream Cake
By Robert Stricklin at The Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks
- 2 pre-prepared 10-inch yellow cakes, cooled
- 1⅓ cups sour cream, divided
- 4 cups fresh peaches, diced (canned or frozen
- peaches work as well)
- 2 quarts heavy whipping cream
- 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 tablespoons vanilla
- ½ teaspoon whipped cream or meringue
Cut the two cakes in half to get four equal-sized portions. Wrap one of the four cake portions and freeze for later use. You will only need three of the portions to make this cake. Spread ⅔ cup sour cream onto one layer of cake, then disperse half of the peaches onto the sour cream. Stack the second layer of cake on top of the sour cream, spread another ⅔ cup sour cream on top, then disperse the second half of the peaches. Top with the third layer of cake. Place heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, vanilla and stabilizer in a large bowl and whip together until stiff peaks form. Spread the whipped cream over the sides and top of the cake. Refrigerate the cake for at least one hour before serving.
Royal Anne Cherry Sauce
Courtesy of The Food Channel
- 1 can pitted Royal Anne Cherries in heavy syrup
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 heaping tablespoon cornstarch
Drain syrup off the cherries directly into a small saucepan over medium heat, reserving the cherries for later. Add all ingredients to the syrup, stirring until mixture comes to a boil. Add cherries and heat through, then serve over meat of your choice. This sauce pairs particularly well with chicken and pork.
Apricot Cranberry Oatmeal with Walnuts
Courtesy of The Food Channel
- ½ cup dried or fresh apricots, diced
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups reduced-fat milk
- 1 cup Irish steel-cut oats
- 1 pinch salt
- ½ cup apple juice
- ¼ cup walnuts, toasted
- Honey, to taste
- Cinnamon, to taste
- Cream, to taste
Bring water and milk to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add oats and salt, stirring frequently until mixture comes back to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, bring apple juice to a boil in a small saucepan. Add apricots and cranberries; cook a few minutes or until plump. Portion piping-hot oatmeal into four bowls and sprinkle evenly with plumped fruit and toasted walnuts. Serve with honey, cinnamon and cream as needed.
Grilled Glazed Peaches with Peach Thin Crisps
Courtesy of The Food Channel
- 3 tablespoons peach preserves
- 8 peaches, halved
- 1 tablespoon orange juice
- 4 sheets phyllo dough, thawed
- ½ cup pecans, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup peach nectar
- 6 tablespoons brown sugar
- Vegetable oil
- 1 quart vanilla ice cream
Preheat oven to 375ºF. Preheat grill. Whisk together peach preserves and orange juice. Place one sheet of phyllo dough on a lined baking sheet. Brush with preserve mixture. Place another sheet on top and brush with preserve mixture. Sprinkle with pecans. Repeat process once more. Bake five to eight minutes or until brown and crisp. Let cool and break into pieces. In a small saucepan, heat peach nectar and brown sugar until sugar dissolves; keep warm. Brush each peach half with vegetable oil and grill for two to three minutes or until grill marks appear. Place two grilled peach halves on each plate; top each with a drizzle of peach nectar glaze, two small scoops of ice cream and three to four pieces of peach thin crisps.