What to make when you buy too many peaches at the roadside produce stand this summer

Mackensy Lunsford
Southern Kitchen

The scent of a roadside produce stand hits you first and lingers in your memory longest. Every last one of them smells faintly of the tang of overripe tomatoes and peaches, and slightly dusty wooden baskets. Hit any produce stand in the country, and you'll find the aroma of onions competing with, but not overpowering, the scent of melons ripening to sweet softness.

During the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the farm stand became as practical as it was romantic. That year, I drove to Edisto in the low country of South Carolina. I was still wary of the crowds at the grocery store at the time. Breezy open-air markets, with their piles of haphazardly stacked melons and boxes of earth-scented potatoes, became the standard for gathering what I needed to cook a proper coastal meal.

Low country markets, in general, are delightful. There are seafood stands with fresh red snapper and still twitching shrimp. One favorite, King's Farm Market, does not have fresh fish, but it does have the expected assortment of squash and tomatoes, plus shrimp and crab casserole in the freezer. On the shelves are bags of Carolina Gold rice, Sea Island red peas and coarse-ground Marsh Hen Mill grits, all waiting to be served with a bit of fried coastal fish. There are fun pickled things, containers of pimento cheese and bags of red spices to toss in your crab boil.

Grilling peaches

There, I loaded up on too much sweet corn and an impractical haul of peaches already threatening to burst from their skins. Behind our rented beach house, I grilled the corn right in the husk, which I'd pre-soaked in hopes that it wouldn't catch fire. It almost always does, but the smell of burning corn husk is as nostalgic as the smell of the market. While grilling some swordfish steaks, I tossed some peach halves on the heat to cook down to a caramelized sweetness as the perfect summer side dish. 

Like heirloom tomato sandwiches, grilled peaches are as easy a way as any to use up what you find at the produce market. But if I'd had the time and the inclination between lazy beach trips, I might have made this peach ice cream pie instead. 

Seafood recipes:11 great seafood recipes to make while you're giving up meat for Lent

Grilling recipes:All-American grilling recipes, tips and tricks to level up your backyard barbecue

In this recipe, lightly stewed peaches offer a tempered tartness that plays well with vanilla ice cream and a sweet cookie crust, which stays crisp even as the ice cream melts. 

It also takes little effort to put together — just 30 minutes, though it does require a few hours firming up in the freezer. Should you find yourself at the beach with a half-hour to spare and an extra bag of peaches, this might be just what you're looking for to finish a meal of fried coastal flounder and fresh corn. 

(Recipe courtesy of Dailey’s in Atlanta, Georgia.)

Peach ice cream pie

This recipe requires a food processor and a 9-inch pie pan. If you're making this at the beach, do make sure you have the proper equipment on hand before getting started. 

Serves: 8

Hands on time: 30 minutes

Total time: 4 hours

Ingredients

1 cup granulated sugar, divided

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 cups (about 4 whole) peeled and sliced peaches

45 vanilla wafers

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted

1 1/2 quarts vanilla ice cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream

Instructions

In a medium saucepan, combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar, cinnamon and vanilla extract. Chop 2 cups of the peaches into small pieces and stir them into the sugar mixture (reserve the remaining 2 cups of peaches for the peach sauce, below). Cook the mixture over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is bubbly but the peaches are still crisp. Remove from heat and cool completely for about an hour.

In the meantime, make the crust. In the bowl of a food processor, combine 35 of the vanilla wafers and 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar and process until fine. Add the melted butter and process until well-combined. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie pan. Freeze the crust for about 30 minutes.

Allow the vanilla ice cream to sit at room temperature until slightly softened, about 15 minutes. Coarsely crush the remaining 10 vanilla wafers.

Place the ice cream in a large bowl and carefully stir in the cooled peach mixture and the coarsely crushed wafers until the ice cream is just swirled in a marble pattern. Pour the filling into the crust, mounding in the center and smoothing the surface, and freeze until hard, at least 3 hours.

Meanwhile, make the peach sauce. In a food processor or blender, combine the remaining 2 cups peaches with 1/4 cup sugar. Puree and store in the refrigerator.

To prepare the sweetened whipping cream, beat the cream with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar until soft peaks form. Store in the refrigerator.

To serve, drizzle each dessert plate with peach sauce. Place a slice of pie on top of the sauce, then top the pie with whipped cream.

Mackensy Lunsford is the food and culture storyteller for USA TODAY Network's South region and the editor of Southern Kitchen.

Sign up for my newsletter here.

Reach me: mlunsford@southernkitchen.com