You’ve already noticed this year’s peach crop on the stands, and, if you’ve tried them, you also know they’re unusually sweet and juicy.
Local peach growers are crowing about the 2010 crop. For the first time in years, virtually all the fruit is making it to maturity, in spite of last week’s storm, and the quality is excellent.
“This is the best crop growers have had in four or five years,” said Todd Swift, Blanco County Extension Agent. “We had the right chill hours last winter, the fruit set well, and the growers thinned their crop properly. Now it’s paying off.”
The payoff is not in a big money crop in Blanco County, certainly not compared to Gillespie County’s huge peach industry.
“We do have a couple of commercial orchards here,” Swift explained, “but Blanco County’s chief economic benefit is that we’re on the way to Stonewall and Fredericksburg for folks in Austin and San Antonio, so our businesses benefit from peach-buyers passing through.”
Here, the big beneficiaries of a good peach crop are the home growers with just a tree or two in the yard. Peaches are labor intensive, he said; a homeowner has to work at keeping the trees disease-free and getting the highest grade of peach from a tree, but the payoff is in being able to pick top-quality, tree-ripened fruit right outside the door.
Different varieties ripen at different times during peach season, and the ripening schedule means there is at least one variety in good supply from late May through late August. Cling peaches come first, Swift said, great for immediate eating, with the Freestones coming later, setting off a pickling, canning, and freezing marathon in local kitchens.
“In spite of the heavy rain we had last week, they’re still forecasting an increasing drought for the rest of the peach season,” Swift added, but that shouldn’t hurt the crop.
“Drought actually can help the peach grower by keeping fungal disease down,” he said. “A grower can compensate for the lack of rain by keeping the orchard floor free of grass, which competes for soil moisture.”
“What we can say about this year’s peach crop here at the start of the season is that it’s a great crop now, and it looks like this is going to be a great summer for peach lovers.”
For more information about peaches and peach-growing, visit the Blanco County Extension Office in the county courthouse annex in Johnson City, or call Swift at 868-7167.