Georgia Peaches: A Taste of Summer in the South

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Summer in Georgia means fresh, juicy, local peaches are back in season; a time of year everyone eagerly anticipates. From roadside stands to supermarkets, and perhaps in your own yard, this delectable fruit is a taste of summer in the South, gracing our appetites from early June straight through September.

They don’t call us ‘The Peach State” for nothing.

Georgia has a long, storied history with the peach. According to historical records, peaches were found here as far back as the late 1600s, and today they’re something that Georgia has become quite famous for.

Georgia may call itself “The Peach State”, but according to USDA statistics, South Carolina  ships approximately 90,000 tons of their peaches a year from its approximately 20,000 acres of peach orchards across the state, compared with Georgia’s 40,000 tons. All in all, the top 4 states for peach production are California, South Carolina, Georgia and New Jersey. California is a significant producer of both fresh and processed peaches, while Georgia mostly produces the fresh fruit.

S.C. Peaches: A taste of summer in the Lowcountry
Photo courtesy Billie Hernandez

Peaches are actually native to China, where they have been harvested for over 4,000 years. Spanish settlers first brought peaches to the Southeastern U.S. back in the 1500s, which then led many settlers in the 17th and 18th Centuries to believe that peaches were native to the area here.

It wasn’t until the 1800s that Georgia began to really grow peaches commercially, finding it a profitable piece of produce.

Realizing the value of fresh peaches, Georgia started growing peaches as a commercial crop first before anyone else got into the game.

Peach uses

Georgia peaches have a variety of uses. Other than eating them when fresh, and preferably cold, they’re great in pies; with peach cobbler being a southern favorite. Other uses include ice cream and sorbets, in salads, peach smoothies, glazes-jellies-jams, peach butter, peach salsa and you can put them in a variety of pastries including peach tarts and danishes, too. You can check out 70 peach recipes from Southern Living and try something new.

Plus, frozen peach slices go perfect in glass of your favorite sweet tea.

Other interesting peach facts:

  • There are tens of thousands of acres of peach orchards in Georgia.
  • More than 130 million pounds of peaches are harvested in Georgia in a typical year.
  • Georgia is nicknamed “The Peach State.”
  • Weather is the most important factor in growing peaches. A 1- or 2-degree drop at a critical time can make or break a peach crop.
  • Peaches are rich sources of vitamins A and C as well as alpha hydroxy fruit acids.

How to select the best peaches

Peaches are always best when they are picked at the peak of their sweetness, so they are ready to eat. They won’t become sweeter as they sit around and soften.

It’s best to select peaches with a creamy or yellow color; they tend to be the sweetest. Avoid peaches with a green tint; they’ve been picked too early and will not be as sweet.

So, the next time you’re visiting a local farm stand, or walking through your favorite grocery store’s produce department, you’ll fancy yourself that much more knowledgeable about peaches and about their role and history here in Georgia and in the U.S.

Be sure to grab some before they’re all gone. They’re a sweet taste of summer here in Savannah.