Peach harvest in the South typically begins around the middle of May and goes through the end of August. Here’s how Georgia peaches go from tree in the orchard to your kitchen for pie, cobbler or ice cream:
- Peaches are picked by hand from the trees.
- The peaches are immediately rinsed in cold water to stop any further ripening. They are run through hydro-cooler, essentially an ice-water bath that lowers the temperature of the peach to delay the ripening process so the fruit won’t be overripe when it reaches the consumer.
- The next day, they are cleaned, defuzzed and sent through graders that remove leaves and cull the least desirable fruit. The remaining peaches are sorted by an electric sizer.
- Finally, they are packed and shipped in refrigerated trucks to arrive in retail stores often within three days of picking.
SEE MORE: 7 Recipes with Peaches
And that’s where you can find them fresh this time of year! Here are a few more peach fun facts, including health benefits and how they grow:
- The life of a peach tree is about 15 years, and peaches don’t bear fruit during the first two years The trees produce some fruit the third year but bear the most peaches in years 4 to 15.
- Georgia grows 130 million pounds of peaches each year, but California and South Carolina produce even more.
- The United States grows 978,260 tons of peaches each year. That’s 1.9 billion pounds!
- Peaches get their flavor from their variety, not their color.
- Freestone is the most common peach variety (where the pit is easily removed), but other varieties include semi-freestone, white, clingstone and donut.
- Peaches are packed with several major nutrients, including vitamin A (beta-carotene), vitamin C and potassium.
- One medium-sized peach contains just 38 calories.
- Peaches are an excellent source of fiber, good for blood sugar and naturally fat free.
If you’re planning on picking, here are some tips to determine if a peach is ripe:
When it is attached to the tree … Peaches are best picked when the fruit separates easily from the twigs. If it is hard to pull off the tree, it isn’t ripe. Peaches will not ripen further once removed from the tree.
Consider its color … Green is definitely unripe, but you can’t use red color as an indicator of how ripe a peach is. Different peach varieties have differing amounts of red blush in their natural coloring. Pick them when the ground color changes from green to yellow, orange, red (or a combination). The skin of yellow-fleshed varieties ripens to an orange tint, while the skin of white-fleshed varieties changes from greenish- to yellow-white.
Feel how soft it is … Unless you like your peaches very firm, pick your peaches with just a little give when gently pressed. Peaches at this stage are great for eating, freezing and baking.
Smell the fruit … It should smell sweet.
What’s your favorite way to eat peaches? Check out our collection of peach recipes for inspiration.