FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 10, 2006
CONTACT: Jon Clements, UMass Extension Tree Fruit Specialist, 413-478-7219
MASSACHUSETTS PEACH AND NECTARINE HARVEST IN FULL SWING
Although Massachusetts is perhaps better known for it’s fall apple crop, many Bay State tree fruit growers also produce that delectable late-summer treat, locally grown tree-ripened peaches.
Since early May, when the peach flowers were pollinated by bees, to the current ‘dog-days’ of August, fruit growers have been watchfully tending their crop of stone fruit – which includes peaches, nectarines, cherries, and plums – to guard against pests and produce a high-quality, tree-ripened fruit dripping with juice and flavor.
And this growing season has been very good for Massachusetts peach growers. A mild winter followed by warm mid-summer temperatures, and plentiful rainfall has produced a bountiful peach crop. Harvard Massachusetts peach grower Frank Carlson says “Peach and nectarine size, quality, and flavor are very good this year.” Carlson is one of the largest peach growers in Massachusetts and both retails and wholesales his crop of stone fruit.
Massachusetts 100 commercial tree fruit growers produce approximately 30,000 bushels of peaches and nectarines annually on 350 acres. Commonly grown peach varieties include Earliglo, Jersey Dawn, Newhaven, Redhaven, Harmony, Encore, Canadian Harmony, Garnet Beauty, and Summer Beauty. Your local fruit grower has also been quick to plant and harvest new, larger, tastier, and better-colored peach varieties. These include the ‘Flaming Fury’ and ‘Stellar’ series of peaches with names such as PF-1, PF-15, Rising Star, and Glowing Star.
At the UMass Cold Spring Orchard in Belchertown – UMass Amherst’s fruit program research and extension orchard – new and exotic peach and nectarine varieties with names like Jade, Countrysweet, and Honeykist are featured for sale along with more traditional varieties. Extension Educator and tree fruit specialist Jon Clements says “Customers at the Cold Spring Orchard have the opportunity to try and purchase new varieties with unique appearance and flavor that are being tested by University researchers.” The UMass Cold Spring Orchard store (http://www.coldspringorchard.com) is open daily from 10-5 beginning August 12.
When visiting your local farm-stand or grocery for fresh-picked peaches, look for fruit that is still firm but not green. The skin color should be fading from green to white or cream with a nice red blush covering a portion of the skin. Peach skin is slightly fuzzy while nectarines are hairless and redder. Some orchards/farm-stands even let you pick-your-own peaches. At home, peaches should be eaten soon or stored in the refrigerator where they can be kept one or two weeks before losing flavor and quality. The peach harvest season runs from roughly late July to mid-September when more attention turns to the apple crop.
One south-central Massachusetts community is so enamored with peaches they hold an annual Peach Festival. Since 1985 the Wilbraham Peach Festival (http://www.peachfestival.org) has drawn thousands of people to celebrate the local peach crop as well as partake in such activities as a parade, amusements, food booths, and entertainment. This year the Peach Festival runs from August 18-20.
To find a grower or farm-stand with peaches near you, visit the Massachusetts Fruit Growers’ Association web site, http://www.massfruitgrowers.org, the Massachusetts Department of Food and Agriculture ‘MassGrown’ web-site, http://www.mass.gov/massgrown/, or the Massachusetts Association of Roadside Stands web site, www.massfarmstands.com.