Hello Friends and Family,

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

Georgia On My Mind Again, Part 5

Two years ago on my most recent trip to Georgia, we had stopped at the Mercier Orchard in Blue Ridge. At that time of year (April), it was a bit early for that year's fruit crop but this time was a very good time to be there — peaches had a good season which was winding down and apples were just starting to be harvested.

Love the view just outside their retail shop — hills in the background (with producing trees), an irrigation pond plus landscaping in the foreground.

I wasn't the only one enjoying this spot — the kids were running up and down the hills. Smart parents — letting the kids burn up all that energy that youngsters possess so they could crash later.

The parking lot actually extends all the way to the edge of the orchard so one can see the apples still attached to the tree (mostly) but ready to be picked. They do offer hay rides to the spot in the orchard where harvesting is underway (or winding down) so folks can pick their own. Great fun for kids of all ages.

I recall that on my last visit, there was a stand selling boiled peanuts — a Georgia favorite — but also this time a vendor was offering kettle popcorn. I am guessing that these businesses are not owned by the orchard but allowed to set up here for a fee.

Once inside, my brother-in-law suggested that I go to the tasting bar and get a sample of a "Big Red" peach while he and my sister stood in line to buy a couple fried pies for us to taste.

Now let me tell you, I love peaches but I have never known varieties — just give me peach anything — the whole fruit, pie, cobbler, ice cream — and I'm in heaven. When I tried that "Big Red", I was completely overwhelmed. It was so good, I had no words to convey that experience — so I was forced to get help from a professional. Their description reads, "Largest fruit of the year! A juicy freestone that is 50-60% red with a rich yellow background." They did not mention "incredibly delicious" so they only get a B from me.

BTW, the fried peach pie was wonderful too. I was getting spoiled.

We continued to wander around the store and I found something from my growing-up years — candy apples. We used to eat these at Ocean City, MD — where we went for entertainment when visiting our grandmother and other relatives who lived on the Eastern Shore. Many places offer caramel apples but candy apples are not very common. I'm glad to see that they are still around.

And here is something else I haven't had in ages — apple butter. I don't know for sure but I suspect mom used to make this for us rather than buying it at the store — great on toast.

Oh and here is my favorite variety of honey, orange blossom honey. The bees visit the orange trees to gather nectar and it provides a subtle enhancement to the normal sweetness we associate with honey. One description I found online stated that it "explodes with bold sweetness and a subtle citrus flavor! Floral, fruity, and incredibly aromatic, this sunshine-soaked Florida orange grove honey is perfect baked into Baklava or drizzled over buttery French toast. Try Orange Blossom Honey as a dip for fresh figs, strawberries, and melon." I suggested "subtle" — guess I understated it.

Additionally, I do not believe that orange trees can thrive (or even survive) in northern Georgia. Must be an import from Florida.

Hmmm, I wonder what cranberry honey tastes like. I found a description — "Cranberry Honey is prized for its strong berry flavor without the harshness of the cranberry. In addition, Cranberry Honey has a beautiful red cast when held up to the light!" In addition, the bees provide a huge service to the cranberry growers, substantially increasing the crop yield.

Well, now I'm in more familiar territory. Seems like most of the varietal honey I have eaten in my life was either clover or wildflower.

And I have friend at the gym (who is a personal trainer) who loves honey and who asked me to buy him a varietal honey last year when I was on Maui (I bought him macadamia nut honey). Maybe I should buy him some of this variety from northern Georgia.

But wait a second — sourwood honey? If you recall a few weeks ago, I shared a photo of a sourwood tree with a tent caterpillar infestation. How could such a tree produce a variety of honey? And why would I want to eat it?

Online I found the reason — "Sourwood Honey is extra-light to light amber color and extremely aromatic with a distinctive rich honey flavor. In local markets it commands a premium price. When it comes to quality and taste, no other honey can match Sourwood Honey."

Sold! Brad, you're getting sourwood honey! I bought some for myself as well. I tasted a sample and it was quite good — I'll give it a more thorough tasting once I finish the open bottle of orange blossom honey still in our pantry.

And we had to buy some good old-fashioned apple cider. We drank some when we got home and it was superb. I wonder why it was much tastier than the stuff I buy our grocery store back home. Perhaps, it is because stuff always tastes best at the source.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com