Peaches and the Hill Country Fruit Council JUN 01 2014
Gillespie County is the largest peach-producing county in the state of Texas, with over 1,400 acres in commercial production – 40% of Texas’ entire peach crop. Peaches from the region, which includes Stonewall and Fredericksburg, are prized for their unique flavor and juice-dripping texture, which many say is the result of the mineral-rich soil and climate conditions in which they grow. Each year during peach season, which runs from early May through mid-August, scores of folks from around the state descend on the county to purchase peaches – either ready-picked, or pick-your-own.
The third weekend in June marks the date of the Stonewall Peach Jamboree, a fun-filled family gala featuring a great parade, the crowning of the Peach Queen, and a multitude of peaches to eat just as Mother Nature made them, or cooked into every conceivable concoction that can be made from peaches!
There are many family-owned orchards from which to choose, with each growing different varietals of peaches, from early-ripening “cling” peaches to the succulent later summer varieties. The need arose, according to Jamie Vogel of Vogel Orchard, “to form an alliance of those farmers who grew peaches and other fruits” so that they could network on marketing techniques and implement guidelines to monitor their industry. The Hill Country Fruit Council was formed in the late 1970s to promote cooperation between area fruit growers. Today there are approximately twenty-five members in the council.
One of their most valuable actions was to design a user-friendly website that would offer the public information on the various types of peaches, ripening dates for peaches and other fruits, as well as information on how to select and store peaches and yields for those who wish to can and/or freeze peaches. Individual growers are listed with information of the varieties which they grow, seasonal hours, and maps for finding them. The site also has a special section brimming with mouth-watering recipes using peaches. It’s a cornucopia of information on everything you could want to know about Gillespie County peaches.
The Hill Country Fruit Council works with the state agri-life horticulturist and Texas A&M University through educational seminars at their yearly gathering in Gillespie County on subjects ranging from growing techniques, pruning, and discussions of handling insects and other blights which affect both production and the quality of fruits. The council’s goal is to assist growers in producing the best fruit possible and to encourage the public to travel to the region to buy directly from the growers at their various farm stands. Often, unscrupulous vendors bring in peaches from other regions of the U.S.,selling them as Texas, or even specifically Gillespie County fruit. Armed with the right information, you can purchase or pick your Gillespie County peaches with the confidence you’re getting the very best fruit – and enjoy a day or two in Fredericksburg as an added bonus. Reach the council’s website by clicking www.texaspeaches.com.
By Terry Thompson-Anderson
Chef, Cookbook Author, Culinary/Wine Consultant