Summertime or anytime, Georgia will entice you with its Southern charm, majestic oak trees, and luscious peaches. While most won’t argue about Georgia’s charm or its grand live oak trees, some may have differing opinions about its peaches, especially since California holds the honor of being the top peach producer in the nation.
If that’s the case, who’s really the peach in the peach industry? Does Georgia really have the best peaches? Let’s find out.
Peaches are a fruit, as most of us know, but did you know that they’re part of the rose family? They’re believed to have originated in China and didn’t make it to the New World until the 1600s. And ever since then, the peach tree has become one of the most important deciduous plants in the world, with many varieties now available.
The two main types of peaches are clingstone and freestone. Clingstone peaches appear more often in processing because the flesh clings to the stone of the peach. Freestone peaches are much easier to eat fresh, including in baking and canning, because the flesh separates from the stone freely.
In the U.S., according to the Agricultural Marketing Research Center, 20 states commercially produce the majority of peach retail sales. And in 2020, the value of peach production for the U.S. was more than $500 million. Production hit around 617,000 tons of peaches.
Georgia, South Carolina, California, and New Jersey are some of the top peach-producing states. California was in the lead in 2020, producing more than 450,000 tons of peaches. So why do people claim that Georgia has the best peaches?
Why Is Georgia Called ‘The Peach State?’
It would make sense that Georgia has a reputation for having the best peaches since its nickname is “The Peach State.” This name originated from the Civil War when the boll weevil beetle destroyed cotton crops. To make up for the difference, Georgia grew peaches. Refrigerated rail cars completely changed the game and further increased the state’s peach production.
A century ago, Georgia claimed the title of the country’s number one producer of peaches. This gave the state its nickname, which still sticks today. However, today peanuts are Georgia’s top crop. Georgia growers insist that it’s quality over quantity that counts. And a representative from the Georgia Farm Bureau agrees: “I’ll just come out and say that right out of the gate, our peaches are Georgia-grown, and they’re the best in the nation.”
Where Are the Majority of Georgia Peaches Grown?
Most Georgia peaches grow in the west-central counties of Crawford, Taylor, Macon, and Peach. Macon County is the top producer. This location offers an ideal climate along with rich sandy soil to produce around 2,500 acres of peaches.
Traveler’s Tip: Pick up some peaches for a sweet snack while road tripping through Georgia’s 7 best small towns.
Why Are Georgia Peaches So Good?
Georgia peaches are some of the best-tasting peaches in the nation, thanks to the ideal climate. Along with that, the majority of the peaches produced in Georgia are sold fresh. This offers up an abundance of vitamins, fiber, and potassium.
So, not only do they taste wonderful, but they’re also good for you. Peaches contain vitamins A, C, E, K, and B complex. They’re also high in fiber, potassium, calcium, and other minerals. These nutrients assist the body’s immune, circulatory, skeletal, and digestive systems and beyond. It’s no wonder Georgia peaches taste so good; they come straight from nature.
Which Types of Peaches Does Georgia Grow?
Georgia grows more than 40 varieties of peaches. The first peach is of the Elberta variety, known for its high quality in both flavor and appearance. There are several other varieties as well.
The clingstone peaches available in Georgia are Flavorich and Flordaking and are perfect for jams, preserves, and pickling. The freestone varieties are Georgiabelle, Redskin, Suwanee, and Jefferson and are great for freezing, canning, baking, or eating fresh.
The Rubyprince, Starlite, Juneprince, and Surecrop varieties have semi-free stones. This makes them the best for eating fresh and terrific for some fresh baked goods. Whatever variety you choose, you can expect nothing less than vibrant colors and mouth-watering flavors if you get it in season.
When Are Georgia Peaches in Season?
The easy answer to that is summertime. But if you want the best peach at its best moment, you’ll have to know exactly when each variety is ripe and ready for picking. In general, farmers harvest clingstone peaches from mid-May to early June. Semi-free stone peaches hit their peaks just after that from early June to mid-June. Freestone peaches are ready to come off the trees around mid-June to mid-August.
You’ll find fresh peaches throughout the entire state of Georgia. They sell everywhere from farmers’ markets to free-standing fruit stands to farms to grocery stores and more. And if you can’t make it to Georgia, no worries. You can even order fresh Georgia peaches online and get them delivered almost anywhere.
Does Georgia Really Have the Best Peaches?
While Georgia is no longer the top producer of peaches, they still produce some of the best in the country. In the end, though, you’ll have to decide. If you find yourself wandering through one of Georgia’s many farmers’ markets at the height of peach season, fresh peach in hand, juice dribbling down your cheek, will you be able to deny it? Go try it for yourself and let us know what you think.