time to explore with esplora

Emily in Malta: Mġarr flat peaches

My name is Emily and I moved to Malta this past year with my family from the United States. I have quickly fallen madly in love with all things Malta, most notably the incredible people and the pure and sacred foods that are grown locally. I am on a quest to meet as many local farmers, growers, food producers, professional chefs and home chefs as I can, in order to learn the way that things are done here in my extraordinary new home in beautiful Malta. There is a certain magic in the way the locals grow, handle and prepare food and I am honoured that people are willing to share their secrets with us. 

Today’s food of choice is peaches! Flat peaches, to be more specific. I hail from Atlanta, Georgia of the United States. In every state, there’s a specific food or concept that the state is known for and named after. Every license plate of every car has their specific state emblem and colours on them and 50 different coins have a specific logo, representing varying states on the back side. In Georgia, on every car you will find a giant peach sitting just behind the license plate numbers. Below the numbers read the words: “The Peach State”. That’s what Georgia is: The Peach State. Everything in Georgia is peach… the state coin, the streets, the logos and whatever else you can think of comes with something peach.

For example: I grew up in a neighborhood named Peachtree Station that was off the road named Peachtree Corners Circle, which was off Peachtree Industrial Boulevard which then led into Peachtree Street. Driving anywhere in Georgia, you will likely get lost while trying to find whichever Peachtree Road, Corner, Circle, or Lane that you are trying to find. You get the drift here. It’s all peaches in Georgia.

Peaches grow all over the state and flood the local stores when Springtime arrives. The peaches were orange with a hint of red and a good amount of fuzz on the skins. We would pick up each peach and squeeze it and push our thumbs into the skin to see how quickly the fruit would indent, to let us know if it was ripe or not. Every year, when Spring and Summer would converge and the outside temperature was hot enough to make the peaches ripe and pretty, I would begin to scour the store’s organic section for my very favorite kind of peach; the sacred Georgia white peach. Those are much harder to find and only seem to make an appearance for just a few weeks before they’re gone again for another year.

Whenever I saw the sign for those juicy white peaches, I would buy as many as I could. The way that they tasted is beyond any regular peach. They were sweeter, more pure and only grown on a few farms. You could somehow tell that these farmers had love in their hands and the food reflected it year after year.

Guess what blows my little Georgia White Peaches right out of the water?

The Maltese Flat Peach, that’s what! Those little odd-shaped peaches happen to be the most succulent, delicious little pieces of Heaven I have ever tasted. Last year, when we first moved to the island, our friends came over and brought a container of local flat peaches. It was summertime and they were perfectly ripe. I almost didn’t try one because they seemed so oddly shaped and to be honest, I might have been a little bit of a peach snob coming from Georgia. I had a certain expectation of what a peach should look and taste like. Once I picked up one of those little round flat peaches and put it in my mouth, something extraordinary happened. It was like a party in my mouth! Never had I tasted a peach with the flavour and sweetness of this little peach. We began to buy containers of peaches at every grocery shop we found them in, but it was soon Autumn and they went away quickly. We didn’t arrive in Malta until mid-August last year, so the time we had to enjoy those beautiful peaches was limited and short-lived.

Now, almost a year later, Spring has come and gone in the blink of an eye and summer arrived quickly here in Malta. My little friends are back. Don’t think for a single minute that we didn’t notice it, either! We saw the first round of those peaches show up at the store just at the cusp of being perfectly ripe. I have been waiting and biding my time for exactly when those peaches are perfect. That time started just a few weeks ago. This was the first week I saw them available to us on our favourite produce truck. It was the first batch we bought this year and each one was utter perfection in terms of taste, tenderness and sweetness.

Anyone who is a fan of peaches and tries these local flat peaches, always seems to have a similar reaction. Soon enough, the peaches will be out everywhere that fruits are sold and everyone will be rushing to the stores or the local produce trucks to grab them before they are gone – and who can blame them?

Meeting Aaron Camilleri at ta’ salut

Aaron Camilleri

We had the distinct pleasure of visiting Mġarr and a specific farm nicknamed Ta’ Salut. We met with local farmer Aaron Camilleri, who was kind enough to take us to see his farm and rows of flat peach trees. They were magnificent! Interestingly, the peaches grow in rows all along the branches. They are either lined up in a row or in a large cluster on the trees.

All of the peaches face the same direction. Aaron referred to it as ‘her face’. Her face always looks to the sun. He also showed us how to hold the peach so that the face is looking up and the backside is down on the palm of the hand, showing off her most beautiful side.

Aaron also added that there is one secret to farming and that is “to let it ripen.” He said that is what they say over and over again when choosing which fruits to pick and pack: let it ripen. Don’t offer it before it’s time.

As far as the flat peach trees go, the trees themselves originate from Italy and have been growing here in Malta for a little over 15 years. He said they are very easy to grow once they are established. There is a little test you can do with the peach to see if it is ripe. Rub your thumb along the fuzzy skin. If the skin breaks without the use of a knife and sticks to your thumb, it is perfectly ripe. If you can rub your thumb up and down along the peach and it stay perfectly in place, this is a good sign that you should wait a little more.

peach infused white wine sangria

Here’s the recipe I used for our peach infused white wine sangria. My local friends were not familiar with this version of sangria, a drink native to Spain and Portugal. It is usually made out of red wine, a clear soda and fruits of your choice. Usually slices of oranges, lemons and limes are the mainstay of a red wine sangria. The white wine Sangria however, was made to be a host for peaches.  

To make any party a little bit more fun:

1 bottle of white wine of your choice

1 small bottle of ginger ale, 7Up or Sprite

3-5 shots red blood orange or peach liquor

Several flat peaches cut up

Strawberries cut up

Oranges sliced

Lemons or limes sliced

Put on ice and serve

You can add fresh herbs like mint or basil for extra flavour as you wish