How Are Peaches Grown?
A mouth-watering, juicy, fresh-picked peach is an enticing experience. Whether you're picking your peaches yourself or buying them from a stand, peaches are some of the most decadent fruits of the summer. With many different ways to prepare them, peaches are a versatile and delicious fruit that offers the perfect combination of nutrition and flavor.
Lane Southern Orchard covers how farmers grow and harvest peaches to bring them to your table every summer.
How Are Peaches Grown?
The state of Georgia grows over 130 million pounds of peaches each year. How do we grow our peaches at Lanes Southern Orchards? Growing peach trees in favorable conditions allows for a far more bountiful harvest of larger and juicier fruits and reduces the risk of pest damage and disease.
When Is Peach Season?
June is the peak season for peaches in the South, and our harvest window begins as early as May and extends into August. Summertime means warmer weather and optimal conditions for peach-growing and harvesting. Peaches typically grow for 16 to 18 weeks during late spring and summer, and ripening begins in the middle of May to early August.
What Climate Do Peaches Grow Best In?
Peaches come from semi-hardy, deciduous, woody perennial trees that grow best in areas with hot summers and winters with temperatures regularly below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. As peaches are temperate fruit, their optimal ripening temperature is over 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
While peaches are typically less hardy than apples, their growing range extends farther south and at lower elevations. Warm, sheltered spots that stay warm and sunny maximize peach growth. Planting peach trees in an area where they will receive full sunlight for at least six hours a day helps make the most of the tree's peach yield.
In addition to plenty of sunlight, peach trees also require good airflow and slightly acidic soils for the most effective growth and fruit yield. Grass will suck up additional moisture from the ground, so many farmers choose to keep the ground around the trunks of peach trees free of grass for the first few years of growth to allow the peach trees to obtain as much moisture and nutrients from the ground as possible.
Growers will also plant their peach trees in mulch to help the soil stay moist during dry periods and protect the peach trees' trunks from any lawn mower or trimmer damage.
What Is the Life Cycle of a Peach Tree?
Every year, peach trees begin in dormancy where there are no visible signs of growth. Chemical reactions take place inside the tree to prepare it for its next stage of bud growth. As the weather begins to change, the flower buds will swell and form flower structures. Once green tissue emerges, a green leaf will start to extend from the flower bud. With warmer weather, the tree's buds will slowly begin to open and reveal a pink flower.
Once the flowers bloom, the tree's bare limbs will become filled with vibrant, sweet-smelling flowers that will attract insects for pollination. The peach fruit will begin to form once insects pollinate the flower, and as it grows, the tree's flowers will slowly lose their pink petals, and the peach will lose its protective covering. Fruit formation usually occurs around ten days after the tree blooms.
Finally, the peaches will grow to maturity and be ready for harvesting. It usually takes three to four years for a peach tree to start producing fruit of dependable quality. During the following season, the tree will repeat this cycle and continue for up to 12 years.
Varieties of Peaches
We currently grow over 35 different varieties of sweet Georgia peaches at Lane Southern Orchards. Peaches come in two flesh colors, including:
White flesh: Most Asian peach trees produce white-fleshed fruit. White peach flesh appears creamy, pinkish-white and is sweeter to taste and lower in acidity than yellow peaches. Some common white peach varieties include "Belle of Georgia," "Babcock," "Strawberry Free," "Nectar" and "Arctic Supreme."
- Yellow flesh: In the United States, most peach trees produce fruit with yellow flesh ranging in color from a soft yellow to an orange hue. Some yellow-fleshed peaches are streaked with red or become red closer to the pit. Common yellow flesh peach varieties include "Autumn Gold," "O'Henry," "Tropi-berta" and "Suncrest."
There are also three main varieties of peaches known as clingstone, freestone and semi-freestone varieties.
Clingstone peach varieties have white or yellow flesh that clings securely to the pit. These varieties tend to have a softer texture, higher sugar content, and increased juiciness. Clingstone peaches are popular for making preserves as commercial growers typically use machines to separate the pit from the flesh before canning.
Clingstone peaches are also a popular option for incorporating into salads, desserts and baked dishes due to their crisp bite and firmness. Some clingstone variety peaches include "Independence," "Santa Rosas," "Red Beauty," "Sims" and "Juicy Santa Rosa."
In freestone variety peaches, the pit falls out easily. These peach varieties typically have a firm texture, low sugar content, low juiciness, and white or yellow flesh. As you can peel the flesh easily from the pit and remove the pit by hand, freestone peaches are easy to prepare and eat fresh as a snack. Their relatively low juiciness, mild sugar content, balanced acidity and firm texture make them ideal for baking as they will not mask other flavors and retain their firmness when you heat them.
Some freestone peach varieties include "O'Henry," "Elberta," "Red Top," "Red Baron," "Golden Jubilee," "Santa Barbara" and "Elegant Lady." Freestone peach varieties outnumber clingstone peach varieties grown in the United States. People praise them for their sweet fragrance and contribution of a mild tartness to mixed drinks, sorbets and preserves.
Semi-freestone peaches are a cross-hybrid of freestone and clingstone peaches. While the flesh clings to the pit less tightly, these peaches combine the most prized qualities of clingstone and freestone peach varieties as they tend to be relatively high in both juiciness and sugar content. Some semi-freestone variety peaches include "Dixie Red," "Coronet," "Harvester," "Gold Dust" and "Florida Prince."
How Are Peaches Harvested?
When it comes time to harvest peaches, we at Lane Southern Orchards do it all by hand. Our pickers work their way through our fields of peach trees and select the ripest fruit that is still firm by hand. Our growers try to harvest our peaches before birds and small mammals have a chance to get to them. The pickers then place the peaches in a bag, and once the bag is full, they transfer the fruit to another container.
From there, they will bathe the peaches in cold water to halt the ripening process, wash the peaches, and choose the best peaches to offer to our customers. Growers will typically harvest clingstone peaches during the early part of the Georgia peach season from the middle of May to the beginning of June. Semi-freestone peaches are usually ready for harvesting through June and freestone peaches throughout the rest of June into August.
How Do You Know When a Peach Is Ripe?
Our tree-ripened peaches provide a fantastic sweetness, and when you're picking or selecting peaches for purchase, you'll want to make sure they have a sweet fragrance. There are several other important distinguishing characteristics of a ripe peach you can look for.
The first thing you'll notice about a peach is its color. Most peaches appear creamy gold or deep yellow when they are ripe — a pale yellow color is a sign that the peach is still not ripe. The red-tinted blush of a peach is indicative of variety rather than ripeness.
Another key sign that a peach is ripe is if it has signs of shriveled skin around the stem. Peach skins develop a more wrinkled texture when water leaves the fruit, which intensifies the peach flavor. A ripe peach should also have a well-defined crease that runs from the stem to its point. Ripe peaches are also soft to the touch without being mushy and will separate easily from the tree.
How Can You Ripen Peaches at Home?
The best way to ripen peaches at home is to put them on newspaper or in a paper bag on the counter. Make sure that the peaches are not touching each other and check whether the peaches are slightly soft. You'll want to eat fresh peaches a week after purchasing, and you can refrigerate them for up to five days to slow down the ripening process.
How Are Peaches Packed for Shipping?
When we ship our peaches from Lanes Southern Orchards, we pick and pack them either the same day or the very next day to keep them as fresh as possible. We take preorders for our farm-grown peaches in April and May and ship them fresh in June and July.
Before the packing process can begin, our pickers bring in thousands of just-picked peaches from the fields and get to work soaking them. After our trucks bring the bins packed with fresh peaches to the rear of our processing facility, we empty the fruit into 36-degree Fahrenheit water to pause the ripening process immediately. Once we've soaked the peaches in an ice bath, we transfer them from the cold water onto a conveyer belt which moves around 70,000 pounds of peaches every hour.
Next, we clean the peaches in water and then send them on their way to the graders. Our graders will sort the peaches for defects and "grade" every peach based on quality using their eyes and hands. We use a numerical ranking system to discern the quality of the peaches and a computerized optical sizer to measure the size of each peach. The graders will also remove any leaves, stems and excess fuzz from the peaches. Only our best, ready-to-eat peaches make it past grading.
The next step of the preparation process is to pack the peaches into boxes. Our packers use a scale under each box to calculate the weight as they fill it with peaches. This way, they know when they have added a sufficient amount of fruit to each package and distributed the peaches equally. Once the boxes are full, our packers seal them to ship them out to stores and our customers scattered all across the country.
How to Pick Your Own Peaches
Peaches on the same tree ripen at different speeds. Some types of peaches will even take several harvests to reach the best stage for picking. When it comes to picking your own peaches, consider factors such as:
Color: A peach ready for picking will not have any green on its skin — it will be yellow or white and, in some varieties, a bright red-orange color. A peach that is still green is not quite ready for picking.
Feel: When you hold and feel a peach, you want it to have some slight give. A firm peach needs to stay on the tree for a while longer. Remember not to squeeze a peach too hard to prevent bruising.
Shape: Peaches become more round as they ripen. A peach ready for picking will have a more plump shape, while an unripe peach will be more pointy or oval-shaped.
Smell: Ripe peaches have a distinct sweet smell. If you sniff a peach and you can't detect a discernible aroma, it probably needs more time on the branch.
Ease of picking: A ripe peach will separate from the branch far more easily. A difficult to pick peach isn't quite ready.
- Size: Larger peaches and those toward the top of the tree will ripen first, while smaller peaches and peaches on lower branches will be slower to ripe.
When handling freshly picked peaches, you want to be sure you do not leave them in a plastic bag, in the sun or inside of a hot car, as this will cause them to ripen unevenly. You should also only put freshly picked peaches in your refrigerator if you want to slow the ripening process.
Choose Lane Southern Orchards for the Freshest Peaches
When you're in the mood for a fresh, juicy treat, look no further than a genuine Georgia peach. When it comes to enjoying the best of this staple summer fruit, nothing beats picking your own peaches at the peak of peach season!
Lane Southern Orchards offers 5,000 acres of peaches right here on our farm for you to peruse and pick at your pleasure. Established in 1908, our farm is one of the largest grower of peaches in the U.S. From hosting annual family-friendly events like birthday parties in our outdoor pavilion to our popular Roadside Market, we pride ourselves on our 100% customer satisfaction guarantee for all of our products.
If you're looking to enjoy a delicious and healthy summer treat of fresh peaches, make sure you shop during peak peach season from July to August. At Lane Southern Orchards guarantees fresh fruit packed within 24 hours to ensure the tastiest peaches make it home with you. If you're unable to make it to the farm, we also provide free shipping for our fresh seasonal peaches and homemade peach products.
When you're craving some classic southern hospitality, contact us today to enjoy peaches fresh from our farm to your family!