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Peaches are a juicy stone fruit with a sweet flavor similar to that of wildflower honey with underlying notes of citrus. Their delicate skin is velvety and yellowish-orange with a ruby blush.
The peach has been cultivated for over 2000 years and has over 700 varieties. There are three types of peaches: freestone, which easily releases the flesh of the peach from the pit. Cling-stone, where the fruit is firmly attached to the pit and semi-free stone, a newer variety that is a hybrid of the cling-stone and freestone.
Peaches, like most tree fruit, are grown for the fresh market and secondarily for the canned and frozen markets.
Although Georgia is the peach state, the majority of domestic peaches are grown in California.
China produces more peaches than the rest of the world, though Chinese peach juice concentrates and pure imports into the U.S. are still small.
At one time, peach juice and puree was an inexpensive fruit solid for blending with other characterizing fruits. Today, apple, pear and white grape puree and juice concentrates have now taken this role.
A peach tree takes 4-7 years to reach maturity and its best crops are rendered usually the 8th through the 12th years of production.
Peach output is exceeding current fresh demand, which has caused the removal of small acreage of trees (primarily older, less producing orchards). Peaches can be processed at single strength or into a concentrate purée (usually 32 brix).
Peaches are high in vitamin C, dietary fiber, vitamin A, niacin and potassium. Peaches also contain boron, which have been linked to studies that indicate peaches may boost estrogen levels in post-menopausal women, stimulate the brain and aid in prevention of osteoporosis. One medium peach has about 37 calories.
The Peach Orchard
Winter: A critical resting period for trees
It begins in the winter when cold temperatures put the trees into a deep sleep. This “resting state” allows the orchards to gain enough energy for the busy growing season ahead.
Spring: Promote good health
Pre-emergent Herbicides are sprayed to protect the tree from insect and disease threats.
Fertilizing of mature trees is done in March and May to make sure the appropriate nutrients are achieved.
Pruning takes place directly following the last spring frost.
Flowers emerge in the early spring before the leaves appear.
Two months after flowering the fruit is thinned to provide ample growth and sunlight.
Summer: Protecting growing fruit
Post-Emergent herbicides are applied for protection of tree and fruit from insect and disease threats.
Intense summer heat is necessary to mature the crop. The fruit is closely monitored to be picked at the optimal time.
A constant supply of water, increased shortly before harvest, is necessary and a drip irrigation system is ideal.
Row middles are moved regularly during the growing season.
Fruit is harvested by hand in July, August and September in Washington State. In California harvesting occurs between May and August.
Fall: Preparing for new crop
Peach trees have a high nutrient requirement, needing more nitrogen than other fruits. Fertilizing in the fall will benefit the tree and assist in crop production.
Light pruning for removal of diseased and fallen branches and shaping for optimal sunlight is completed.
Fruit Harvest Chart
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