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The Peach Truck creators on what you need to know about peaches this summer

Stephen and Jessica Rose, who started The Peach Truck. Photo courtesy of Eliesa Johnson.
Published Jul. 17

Stephen Rose spent his childhood picking peaches right off the tree. Growing up in the Fort Valley area of Peach County, Ga., he developed high standards for the stone fruit at a young age.

When he moved to Nashville in 2010, he couldn't find any Georgia peaches. That had to change, he thought. Two years later, Stephen and his wife Jessica were slinging peaches from the back of their Jeep, peaches they had brought from Georgia back to their new home state.

It was a hit. The Peach Truck was born, growing since 2012 from a Nashville staple to a company with 84,000 Instagram followers that tours the country — and delivers Georgia peaches to anyone's front door.

I discovered them through their first cookbook, The Peach Truck Cookbook: 100 Delicious Recipes for All Things Peach, which they released in June, just in time for peach season. It typically runs from about mid-May through mid-August, so we're in the thick of it now.

The book is a delightful guide through the world of peaches, instructive yet whimsical, with an eye at all times on preserving the sanctity of a freshly picked peach.

Through 100 recipes that range from breakfast items to salads to cocktails, The Peach Truck Cookbook evokes a homey Southern charm that helps tell the Roses' story and makes you crave peaches.

RECIPES: Five of our favorite peach recipes

There are recipes that use the versatile fruit in their most unadorned form, and others that boil them down with sugar to make syrup or sauce. The gamut is helpful, as peaches are among the most temperamental fruits. If your peaches aren't quite ripe, or just a little too soft, they can still work in many of these dishes, from sweet-and-savory warm farro bowls dotted with kale and goat cheese to peach smoothies with a ginger kick to all manner of baked goods.

I caught up with the Roses recently by phone to talk all things peaches.

What are some things people may not know about peaches?

Stephen: Early on in our business, we were peach educators. We needed to teach people how to handle peaches, what to look for. Peaches are incredibly delicate. And we've had our success because we pick them and then get them into our customers' hands in hours. Grocery stores will have them sit for weeks. Most of the time, they're mealy, they've taken on the smell of the fridge. You're not getting that fresh, natural conditioning process a peach needs to have.

Using your nose is so important when looking for a good peach. Also, don't put them in the fridge once you buy them. Let it sit out in the elements, like an avocado. And then once it gives a little, eat it. Enjoy it.

Are there many varieties of peaches?

Stephen: Varieties change every single week during peach season. Unlike something like apples, peaches have to be consumed a handful of days after they're picked. So when you come to one of our booths, the varieties change all the time depending on the day you pick it.

There are 40 varieties that we grow. Alberta is the peach that gave Georgia its name. It's yellow, almost greenish, and an ugly oblong shape. It almost resembles a mango, it's so bizarre, but it's like sweet nectar from heaven. You won't see it in any grocery store, because we're not taught that's what a peach should look like.

When someone asks what our favorite variety is, we say the one that's currently in our hands.

What's your favorite thing to make with peaches?

Jessica: That's so hard to answer, because you can do so much. Personally, I love cutting them up and freezing them and using them throughout the year in smoothies. You just can't replicate those ripe summer peaches anywhere. Also, I'm kind of on this vinegar kick — I just made a peach vinegar. It's so stinking good. It's one of those things that people will be like, "What is that?" in a good way.

I also love grilling a peach. When you're using your grill, after you're done with it, turn it off and just let the peach sit on the grate as it cools. You kind of can't beat that.

How can we make sure we are buying the best peaches in Florida?

Stephen: I'd say look at your farmers markets, those kind of places. And once you find your source, sticking with it is super important. You're helping that farmer or retailer stay in business. If you're getting great peaches from a good source over and over, they must be getting them from the tree into your hands. Freshness is everything.

Contact Michelle Stark at mstark@tampabay.com. Follow @mstark17.

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