In early spring, there is a particularly eye-catching row of fruit trees off Montauk Highway in Water Mill that promises summer is coming. Over 1,200 peach trees on 4 ½ acres dazzle with bright pink buds as you pass by the Milk Pail farm stand, owned by the twelfth generation Halsey sisters, Jennifer Halsey-Dupree and Amy Halsey, who have been carrying on a farming tradition that began more than 350 years ago.
Those budding promises are now “ready to harvest” says pomologist Halsey-Dupree, who focuses on the tree-fruit aspect of the farm. The farm stand not only carries white flesh varietals, but yellow flesh, white nectarines and donut peaches, too.
“They are all pretty sweet. The white versions tend to have a more perfumey-type flavor,” says Halsey-Dupree, which can make a dessert like pie a little more unique.
While most pies or galettes that call for peaches require cooking them, this buttery, pistachio shortbread tartlet recipe by Cameron Prather leaves them raw, their sweetness coaxed with local honey and mascarpone.
These individual beauties are a lovely ending to a small summer dinner get-together, as cookbook author Florence Fabricant suggests- and encourages to buy local for ‘ guaranteed tree-ripened” flavor.
After plating, drizzle them with local honey, which is abundant and available at most farm stands out east. (Halsey-Dupree recommends Mary Woltz’s Bee’s Needs Honey. “We have it at the store,” she says. “She rents me her amazing honey bees to help pollinate the apple orchard.”)
Add some tiny mint leaves from your garden as the finishing touch. Nothing more is needed when the peaches are this fresh and delicious — and, quite frankly, loved by their farmer.
“I do look forward to harvest. It’s nice to be able to enjoy the ‘fruits of your labor’ if that’s not too silly,” laughs Halsey-Dupree. “Farming can be very rewarding, but it can also give you heartbreak, which I don’t think many people really understand. I often wish there was a way to show people that I farm because it’s in my heart.”
Recipe reprinted from The Ladies Village Improvement Society Cookbook: Eating and Entertaining in East Hampton by Florence Fabricant, Rizzoli New York. Available to purchase at the LVIS Bargain Box Thrift Shop and Book Hampton.
Cameron Prather’s peach tartlets
- 1 1/2 tsp unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup (plus 1 tbsp) pistachios, salted and shelled (or unsalted, plus a 1/4 tsp salt)
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 6 tbsp packed light-brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 tbsp cold, unsalted butter, diced
- 1 cup mascarpone cheese
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp honey
- 4 medium-sized, ripe peaches, pitted and sliced 1/2-inch thick