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Ron Strecker

Peach Jam

T.S. Eliot's Prufrock wondered whether he dared to eat a peach. But Valley residents need not ask themselves so soul-searching a question. For the next two weekends or so, we need only ask ourselves if we dare to pick a peach. Or several pounds of peaches.

Wickenburg's Date Creek Ranch -- "historic" Date Creek Ranch, according to the press materials -- has a problem: success. The trees are producing what's being called their best peach crop in years, and the fruit has gone from unripe to ripe in a matter of days. As you read these words, this bumper crop is headed full-speed toward overripeness. The danger, of course, is that lots of perfectly peachy peaches will go to waste.

We, the peach-eating public, are being asked to provide the solution to this problem. Fruitphiles are encouraged to head to Date Creek and self-harvest the bounteous crop, which is estimated to remain at the peak of succulent ripeness from now until Sunday, August 6 (at the latest). Along with the freestone Alberta peaches, which cost 80 cents a pound, summer apples are available for 50 cents a pound. You pick your own; boxes are provided by the ranch.Even if you aren't a peach junkie, a trip to the 137-year-old cattle ranch, located about 22 miles northwest of Wickenburg on Highway 93 (it's a right turn between mile posts 178 and 177, then four miles to the orchard) might be a worthwhile family outing. There are calves and other animals for kids to pet, and the riparian setting is great for hiking and picnics. Hours are 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and other times by appointment, probably through the first weekend in August. But it's advisable to call first (520-776-8877) for an update on the crop's status before heading out -- the fruit may be too ripe, or it may have already been picked clean.


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