When are Peaches Freestone

Cling stone versus freestone – the great peach debate. Which is better? In my experience working in produce I can tell you that most people clamor for the freestone peach. They are just easier to slice up as you can pop the pit right out. That is especially desired when someone is making a pie or jam and has to cut up a lot of peaches. I know a farm that doesn’t grow anything that isn’t a free stone peach. It is the reason why here in Michigan, the Red Haven peach is so popular, partly because it’s the first genuine freestone peach to ripen each year.

So now the question remains how do you know if you are getting a freestone peach vs. a cling stone peach? Unfortunately looks can’t help you. Both types look the same whether free or cling. So besides just cutting one open, the next best bet is to look at the calendar. Since peach varieties ripen from cling stone varieties to freestone as we move through the calendar, you can get a sense of when you can buy freestone peaches. Rest assure that the earliest peaches to the market and grocery store are going to be cling stone. To get a better understanding of when peach season begins around the country, check out my post on When Does Peach Season Begin (and End)?. For a handy reference, I am providing you with a calendar below of when freestone varieties are ready from select states. So if you are the store check to see where the peach is from and then check your calendar and you can get an idea of whether or not those peaches are freestone. These are only approximate dates, it depends on the year and the area of the state. I will add more information as I gather it. The earliest you will find a freestone peach in the store is mid June.

State Freestone Start Date
Michigan early August
Georgia mid June
South Carolina late June
Texas mid June
California mid June
Idaho mid to late August

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This article was written exclusively for Eat Like No One Else by Pearson Farm, a fifth-generation family-owned business dedicated to growing Georgia Peaches and Georgia Pecans.

The peach is one of the quintessential summer fruits and its arrival is marked by eager anticipation every year. Throughout the summer months, the peach can be found in a variety of recipes, from peach cobbler to peach salad, its sweet flavor and versatility is no doubt responsible for its continuing popularity. While the fruit’s delicious taste is well known, there are many interesting facts that you may not know. In the interest of expanding your peach knowledge, here are ten little known facts about the peach:

1. The peach originated in China and belongs to the rose family.
2. The peach’s scientific name is Prunus persica
3. There are two main varieties of peaches: clingstone and freestone. In clingstone peaches, the flesh of the peach sticks to the pit while it is easily separated in freestone varieties.
4. Peaches can be either yellow or white. Typically, the white peach is sweeter and less acidic than its yellow relative.
5. Peaches were once known as Persian apples
6. China and Italy are the two largest peach growers in the world.
7. Peaches are nutritious as they contain 3 grams of fiber and a healthy amount of vitamins A and C.
8. Peach season runs from June to August
9. The world’s biggest peach cobbler is made in Georgia, it measures 11 feet by 5 feet
10. When ripe, the peach should be slightly soft to the touch and have an even coloring.

With a history dating back thousands of years, there is more to peaches than just their delicious taste. As peach farmers, we take pride in the history and trivial facts about the fruit we cultivate. So, next time you bite into a fresh, juicy peach or dip your spoon into a mouthwatering cobbler, we hope you will share one or two of these facts with your friends. Who knows, they just might be impressed!

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Recently I was checking out the table of one of my favorite vendors at the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market. I have bought several varieties of heirloom apples from her. But on this day she had a peach variety that I have heard about, but never had the chance to try. She recently planted some Elberta peach trees. This was the first year they were purposing fruit, so the peaches themselves were a bit on the small side.

Elberta peaches are among the most popular in the United States. They have a beautiful color, are freestone, hardy, disease resistant, and the trees grow quickly. So if they are so popular how come I have never seen them before. I think it is where Elbertas are popular elsehwere, in Michigan, Red Haven reigns as the most popular peach variety, shutting out the Elberta.

The Elberta peach has been around since the 1870s! It was developed by Samuel H. Rumph. The peach was named after his wife. It may have been the first peach to be shipped a great distance (from Georgia to New York). Samuel discovered the peach held up well when shipped. This peach is what really made Georgia into a peach state. It also had a hand in establishing the commercial fruit industry in the United States. So you have Samuel to thank for any fruit that you buy that is from outside your region.

My Experience with this Peach (Rating Scale 1-10)
Acidity: 8
Peach Flavor: 8
Sweetness: 5
Juiciness: 8

Overall Feeling: This peach has a wonderful flavor. I also found it to be quite juicy and on the acidic side. These peaches would be great canned or uses in a pie or any other baking application. There is a reason why this peach has been around for well over 100 years.

Where is the best place to buy a good peach? Click here to read my article on shopping for peaches.

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“This article was authored exclusively for Eat Like No One Else by Pearson Farm, a fifth-generation family farm producing the best Georgia peaches that are shipped directly from our orchard to your front door.”

One of the biggest changes to the peach industry over the last few years resolves around a singular issue: labor. Labor is a large driving force in the cost to manage a peach farm. While many peach farmers do hire many immigrant workers, a local labor force is necessary.

Many farmers work with a government program (H2A Worker Program) to have legal workers. This labor force typically offers a viable option for farmers to stay fiscally minded. A description of the Worker Program from the Department of Labor’s website:

“The work to be performed must be “of a temporary (or seasonal) nature,” meaning employment that is performed at certain seasons of the year, usually in relation to the production and/or harvesting of a crop, or for a limited time period of less than one year when an employer can show that the need for the foreign workers(s) is truly temporary.”

There is also an increasingly difficult task that must be tackled by peach famers: food safety. The most dedicated farmers work diligently to ensure that peaches are safe for the consumer. Farmers are also required to be able to trace peach shipments, in the rare case that something should be found amiss in a batch of peaches produced.

Finally, there are numerous governmental issues that affect how peach farmers do things on their farms. While many are not officially “organic farms”, most try to limit sprays of pesticides and employ an Integrated Pest Management system.

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“This article was authored exclusively for Eat Like No One Else by Pearson Farm, a fifth-generation family farm producing the best Georgia peaches that are shipped directly from our orchard to your front door.”

Peach trees are like any other produce: they take time, energy and effort to make a viable crop.

Most people will tell you that peach trees are beautiful when in bloom and their visual draw is as much of an appeal as their juicy product. Peach trees do not require much effort to “look good”, but take quite a bit of care to fill your peach basket with ripe fruit each summer.

While peach trees have been in existence for thousands of years, a number of varieties exist today. Most peach trees can produce fruit by themselves, not requiring another tree for pollination purposes.

The number of branches on a peach tree determines how much fruit it will produce. Trees typically reach three feet in height the first year, assuming they are exposed to plentiful sunlight and clean air. When the weather warms, peaches begin to thrive; however, a frost or freeze during the blooming period can doom a tree.

Peach trees need an adequate water supply, but can’t survive in flood conditions and need good draining soil to grow properly. When all the elements are right, the tree can flourish and grow.

Most peach trees will begin to bear viable fruit in 3 years. However, it must be mentioned that to get to this point requires a great deal of attention. Pruning, access to fertile soil, fertilizer and disease management all play a part in raising healthy trees. When everything goes right, peach trees will produce fruit and appetites will be successfully fulfilled.

What many people don’t realize is that peach trees live a fairly short period of time – an average of 15-20 years.

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“This article was authored exclusively for Eat Like No One Else by Pearson Farm, a fifth-generation family farm producing the best Georgia peaches that are shipped directly from our orchard to your front door.”

Many people are aware that there are a variety of peaches available for them to purchase. Some can even tell you that clingstones are good for canning. This variety of peach has a firm texture which makes them ideal for preserving and storing for later consumption.

Clingstones are known for a clear juice, bright color and ability to maintain shape when stored. Their pits are often described as being like wood and have a unique way of clinging to the peach flesh that surrounds them.

These peaches become available during the first part of the harvest season, which typically begins in May each year. Because of their viability in jelly, desserts and other canned applications they are rarely found at your local market.

These soft peaches have a wonderfully sweet taste. These early peaches are clingstones because of their genetic traits, part of their breeding from the early days when the variety was created.

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“This article was authored exclusively for Eat Like No One Else by Pearson Farm, a fifth-generation family farm producing the best Georgia peaches that are shipped directly from our orchard to your front door.”

While peaches can be grown in many climates (from North Florida to Michigan), warm weather, plenty of water and good soil are the ideal climate for growing quality peaches. Georgia is the perfect mix of these weather factors, thus allowing the ability to grow more than 30 different varieties of peaches.

As any peach farmer can tell you, producing sweet peaches is a delicate task. All of the stars must align, weather must be to the crop’s liking and a little luck included.

Georgia’s soil is a beneficial resource to have available when trying to grow peaches, but is only half of the battle; weather conditions have the most direct impact on growing healthy peaches. The better tasting and bigger sized peaches require a certain number of “chill” hours – temps under 45 F during the winter months. The number of chill hours required varies according to variety of peach – some need as few as 400 hours and others as many as 800-900.

Once the chill requirement has been met then the fruit tree is getting ready to come into bloom. Peach trees bloom when they are exposed to a certain amount of warmth, generally associated with the onset of summer. When there is a mild spring, and winter turns into summer overnight, peach crops can be devastated.

Additionally, water helps to nurture each peach as it comes to maturity. More water, in the form of rain or crop irrigation, will typically lead to larger peach. Hot temperatures and dry conditions will produce smaller peaches, but the sugars contained in them will be more concentrated, making a sweeter peach.

When temperatures begin to warm in the spring time, peach trees will bloom. The trees get used to the sunshine and water from spring showers. If a cold front moves in and causes a freeze, after the peach trees have started to bloom, it can severely harm the trees and cause the crop to be lost.

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“This article was authored exclusively for Eat Like No One Else by Pearson Farm, a fifth-generation family farm producing the best Georgia peaches that are shipped directly from our orchard to your front door.”

Many people are unfamiliar with the fact that a peach is actually a member of the rose family. Their origination is from China about the time they learned to make bronze. Even the Greeks and Romans talk about the variety of peaches that they enjoyed.

While peaches were originally introduced in the United States in what is now California, they are best known as a leading export of Georgia during the summer months. There are more than three dozen different varieties of peaches produced by Georgia peach farmers each year. The peach season in Georgia typically begins during May and runs through the middle of August. During that time 65,000 tons of peaches are produced. That is enough peaches to fill 1,625 fully-loaded tractor trailers!

During the period of reconstruction in the South, beginning in 1865, peaches were a key crop for Southern farmers. This agricultural endeavor helped many farms thrive and further fuel the taste buds of many people outside the direct growing region.

During the mid-nineteenth century, commercialization of Georgia peaches really began. Early peach farming pioneers began shipping peaches in champagne baskets, as opposed to ground charcoal. This served as a preservative and allowed the fresh peaches to be shipped further and further away from Georgia.

As peach farming became a viable entity in Georgia, farmers began to expand their land holdings to grow more peaches. Peach production reached its peak in 1928, when Georgia farmers harvested 360,000 pounds of peaches. These peaches were taken to Savannah, a leading East Coast port town, where they boarded a steam ship headed for New York.

At the turn of the century, before World War I, a new variety of peaches were cultivated. The peaches that were produced on the Rumph Family Farm had a clear seed, yellow flesh and blush on its cheeks. The peaches would become known as the Elberta peach. These peaches could even be shipped without being packed in ice, requiring fewer crates and less overall shipping expense. This variety of peach remained the leading peach export until the middle of the nineteenth century. This peach, despite its previous success, is no longer in commercial production.

As peach production flourished, more and more shipping methods were investigated. People tried to find viable ways to utilize rail transportation to ship peaches across the country without them spoiling or becoming damaged.

The rest is history, as they would say. Peach production has become a major part of the Georgia economy. The peach industry has declined, recently, in the state of Georgia due to the high cost of labor and expense of production. However, the climate and soil in middle Georgia produces a top quality fruit. There is enough cold weather in the winter most years to have a good fruit set and a warm enough spring for fruit development.

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I am not a big fan of summer. The hot and humid weather can be unbearable at times. But at least we get a lot of good produce to enjoy during the summer, especially the peaches. Last year I got to review a ton of different varieties of peaches. Peach season here in Michigan begins near the end of July. But thanks to the wonderful people from Pearson Farm in Fort Valley, Georgia, I got to start my peach reviews early this year. I received a shipment of their GaLa peaches last week. No I am not mistaking apples for peaches. While Gala is a popular apple variety, there is also a GaLa peach (notice the capital “L”). This peach variety was a joint release from the USDA-ARS in Bryon, Georgia (Ga) the Louisiana Ag Experiment Station (La).

The GaLa peach is considered a semi-freestone peach. The softness of the peach determines how easy the pit comes out. The first couple peaches I ate, it was a little bit of work to get the stone out and usually a bit of flesh came with it, but as the peaches softened the stone came out without too much trouble and didn’t take any flesh with it. The semi-freestone peaches mark the transition from clingstone to freestone. GaLa peaches are ready somewhere around June 4th. They are ready to harvest on average 5-6 days before the popular Red Haven peach.

The GaLa peach is large in size. The Georgia ones this year ended up being smaller than normal due to less rainfall. This variety also tends to oxidize at a slower rate, so they won’t turn brown that fast after being sliced.

My Experience with this Peach (Rating Scale 1-10)
Acidity: 8
Peach Flavor: 8
Sweetness: 7
Juiciness: 6

Overall Feeling: GaLa peaches have a great peach flavor as well as being quite acidic, but not without some sweetness. I think these peaches would work really well in a peach pie. They are juicy enough, but not overly. Therefore you won’t end up with too much juice in your pie. They are acidic enough to create a balanced dessert.

Care to have some fresh Georgia peaches shipped directly to your home? Visit Pearson Farm’s website to make your order. They also sell peach products like salsa and preserves. If you are a fan of pecans, make sure to include some in your order.

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When Is Peach Season

Is It Peach Season Yet?

Every year when the temperatures start to rise, so does the number of people visiting this popular page on my blog. People want to know when peach season is beginning. They want to know when they can begin looking forward to chin-dripping sweetness. Even thought you can basically buy peaches pretty much year round give or take a couple weeks, there is that perfect moment when they are at their peak. So my goal is to share with you when in your favorite state you can find that exact moment in time. I currently have information on the following states: Florida, California, Georgia, Michigan, South Carolina, New Jersey, and Idaho. Check out the table below for harvest times with more detail about each state to follow.

Peach Harvest Time by States

State Harvest Time
Florida mid April to late May
California early May to early September
Georgia early May to early August
South Carolina early May to early August
Michigan mid July to late September
New Jersey July to September
Idaho August to October

When Does Florida Peach Season Begin?
When we think Florida we think citrus, not peaches. But Florida does fill in a gap between the end of Chilean peaches and the start of the big American peach growers. Because of it’s warm climate and Florida can only grow peach varieties that need only a short number of chill hours (amount of time a peach tree needs of cold weather to produce fruit). Florida peach season is also very short, only going from about mid April to the end of May. Florida peaches are making a comeback. According to the Packer, in the 1980s, severe freezes froze production. 10 times more land is dedicated to peaches in the last 7 years.

When Does Georgia Peach Season Begin?
Georgia is known as the Peach state. They produce some of the country’s fine specimens. They battle with California each year to be the first to market. Georgia peaches can arrive as early as the beginning of May in a good year. In 2013, the crop was a bit late but an overall good crop is expected. Check out this video from Lane Orchards:

By harvesting different varieties that are available at different times throughout the season, Georgia peaches usually last until the beginning of August. So the Georgia peach season is around 3 months or so, give a take a few days.

Spring-Flame-Peaches(Text)

When Does California Peach Season Begin?
The California peach season lasts about a month longer than the Georgia season. They are still harvesting late varieties on Labor Day weekend. California also leads the way when it comes to growing the most peaches. Depending on where you live in the country, most of your peaches in the stores are probably going to be California. With that said there are a lot of low quality California peaches on the market – often picked too early or varieties that aren’t very flavorful. The varieties in California that show up in stores tend to be very round shaped with a vivid red color, almost all red, and very little fuzz (see picture above). Not all hope is lost. If you can find Spring Flame peaches out of Cali, then you are in for a treat as they are one of the most well balanced peaches I have had.

Check out these California peach varieties:
Amber Crest (Yellow)
Snow Angel (White)
Spring Flame (Yellow)

PeachShoppingTips

Here is a video about the 2013 California peach crop:

When Does South Carolina Peach Season Begin?
Georgia may be getting all the allocates as being the peach state of the south, but do not overlook South Carolina. They actually out produce and out ship Georgia. Their peaches come just around the same time as Georgia. The first South Carolina peach I had this year were Flavor Rich peaches. They were harvested at the start of May. Most of the grocery stores I have seen market both Georgia and South Carolina peaches as Southern Peaches, so it can be a challenge to determine which state your getting them from.

Georgia Peach Season
A lot of the Southern Peach varieties come to a point at the end like in the picture to your right. Often they are also very fuzzy, like they could use a good shave. The colors tend to be more yellow and orange, than the dominant red you find in most commercial California peaches.

When Does New Jersey Peach Season Begin?
Often New Jersey is the butt of all New Yorkers joke but don’t under rate this state – these know how to grow peaches! They find themselves behind the southern state of Georgia and South Carolina, but before the midwest peach giant of Michigan. Their tree bloom around the middle of April with the first harvest taking place in July. Their are u-pick peach farms like Melick’s Town Farm in Califon, NJ. They have over 5,000 peach tree featuring over 30 varieties of yellow and white flesh peaches.

2013 New Jersey Peach Crop Update
Farmers are feeling optimistic. The cooler spring temperatures are keeping the tree from blooming too early. The earlier the tree bloom the greater risk for a destructive frost which took place across New Jersey and the midwest in 2012.

When Does Michigan Peach Season Begin?
Red Haven Peach SeasonOver half the states in the US harvest a significant amount of peaches. My home state of Michigan is one of them. Our peach season begins in mid to late July. Red Haven peaches are the most popular variety grown in Michigan. In fact, you will find that most Michigan peach varieties are listed by the number of days they are ripe before and after Red Haven. The latest varieties grown in Michigan are ripe right at the end of September.

When Does Idaho Peach Season Begin?
Usually people only associate Idaho with potatoes, but they have been developing a strong presence in the peach market in recent years. Their advantage is that they are late in the season, when other states like California can only offer peaches that were stores and picked weeks ago, Idaho is able to offer a fresh, delicious bounty. The Idaho peaches I had in 2012 where among the best tasting of the entire year! Kudos to the potato state!

From Clingstone to Freestone
One another to know about peach season is that the first peaches of the season are clingstone peaches. This means the flesh sticks to stone or the pit inside the peach. Try as you might, you will never get it all off. As the season progress the peaches become less clingy. Usually by the middle of the season, all peaches are freestone – you can easily remove the pit from the peach without taking any flesh with it.

HowtoKnowFreestone

For more information about peaches, check out my tips on how to find great peaches. In case it’s not peach season or you are just looking for a take anywhere snack, try purchasing some dried peaches. Good dried food can be very flavorful and can fill up your stomach fast.

Other “When Does _____ Season Begin (and End)?” Posts
Cherry
Plum
Apple
Orange/Mandarins

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