August is not only peak picking time for fresh peaches but also National Peach Month. And despite weather challenges earlier in the year, it’s possible to celebrate with a juicy Virginia-grown peach.
Virginia growers harvested peaches on 1,200 acres and sold 5,120 tons of the fruit in 2015, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. This year many orchards experienced the effects of winter temperatures, but there are still peaches available.
“Unfortunately, we only have about 10 percent of our peach crop this year due to the late-winter freeze. However, there will still be plenty of local peaches, and what we do have will be good size and have a very good flavor because there was a lot of room on the trees,” said John Marker, owner of Marker-Miller Orchard near Winchester. Marker serves on the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Small Fruit & Vegetable Advisory Committee.
Good flavor is good news for peach lovers, and there are different varieties of peaches available at orchards, farm stands and farmers’ markets.
Yellow, white and donut peaches are the most common types consumers can find, and each offers a different flavor profile.
“The white and donut peach varieties offer a sweet and delicate flavor and are best when eaten fresh,” Marker said. “Once heated or baked, they tend to lose their delicious flavor. Yellow peaches are a dual-purpose peach; you can slice them and eat them fresh or use them in pies, cobblers and crisps for delicious desserts.”
The Virginia Grown program of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services maintains a searchable directory at virginiagrown.com of venues at which peaches and other farm products are available.