MOVE OVER GEORGIA. Florida is on the way to a peachy crop. The trouble with growing peaches in Florida has always been that the Sunshine State can’t give peaches the cold shoulder. The fuzzy fruit needs a certain number of chilly hours to rest and relax and regenerate to produce a crop.
Thanks to Florida scientists working in their labs and fields, we now have trees that can fill in land where citrus is having problems. And not just peaches but nectarines and plums, too.
Part of Southern Ontario, where I come from, is a hotbed of tender fruits. The area close to Niagara Falls is perfect for them: peaches, nectarines, all sorts of plums, sweet and sour cherries — and grapes — lots of grapes.
Knowing the need for cold weather, it was surprising to find a nectarine orchard in north Lakeland many years ago. The charming couple who planted and tended it are gone now, and so is the orchard. They gave me a nectarine tree that shaded a small part of the yard. Each year the fruit got smaller, until even the squirrels passed it up. But that was then, and this is now.
At present, Florida peaches are easier and easier to find. Our peaches, generally, are not huge. But what makes ours superior is that they are picked ripe. You don’t have to stand at the kitchen counter waiting for small cannonballs to soften and sweeten. Buy ’em and eat ’em. That could be a slogan.
Never one to take anyone else’s word for it, we compared Georgia peaches and some local fruit. They were about the same size, and all had less fuzz than they used to (fuzz was fun).
Price at Publix was $2.99 for Florida fruit. Green’s Market in Winter Haven charged $1.19 for Florida peaches, and 99 cents for Georgia. They were different in sweetness and depth of flavor. Both were good, but different. Both were delicious.
You can bet that the scientists are burning the midnight orange juice to make a good crop even better.
For eating out of hand, a ripe Florida peach will send juice running down your chin with the best of them.
If you want to get closer to the crop, keep an eye on the newspaper classified ads for U-pick peaches. Check the produce part of local flea markets, too.
There is an association of peach people already sprung up as an offshoot of a citrus group. Dundee Stone Fruit Growers’ Association was started in 2010 to handle harvesting, packaging, and marketing of our new crop.
Now that we have the fruit, what can you do with it? Anything you do with a peach from someplace else you can do with some from right here. And better.
article by TRENT ROWE, CFAN Food Editor
Posted May 15, 2012