A Summer Without Peaches in Georgia

Darkness fell on the Cobbler Belt. Peaches are rarely found.

A slightly warmer winter followed by a series of severe freezes in March devastated Georgia’s peach crop. Some hopeful state officials estimate that: 10% of the crop survived. But on the ground, the outlook looks even worse.

“I would be surprised if we could harvest two percent of the crop,” he said. Jeff Cook, a cooperative expansion coordinator at the University of Georgia, who helped finalize an application for federal relief. Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed it. Declare 18 counties of Georgia Expands natural disaster areas and 38 additional counties eligible for federal financing. Cook said the costs to the state, including lost jobs and the sale of peaches, could reach $200 million.

In this state where eating peaches over the kitchen sink is a birthright, cobbler recipes have been passed down through the generations, with an inexplicable number of recipes passed down. Atlanta city skyline As the peach tree is named, a summer without peaches is incalculable.

Orchards in neighboring South Carolina, which grow more than twice as many peaches as Georgia, have seen little relief after losing more than 75 percent of their harvest this year.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Lanier Pearson, a family peach grower. 1,400 acres in Fort Valley, Georgia. “We’ve never seen anything like this before. Even my father-in-law, who’s been farming his whole life and is in his 70s, doesn’t remember a year this bad.”

Prices for the few peaches available at Atlanta-area farmers’ markets nearly doubled last year. Organic peaches he sells for about $2 each. Due to the severe shortage of local fruit, some Georgia grocers only offer California-grown peaches. This is “like playing”.sweet carolineat Yankee Stadium.

Far more peaches are grown in California and South Carolina, but Georgia’s loyalty to peaches is strong.Stephen Satterfield Chef mirror union The Atlanta resident doesn’t want to supplement his precious quota of just two boxes a week with peaches from other states.

Instead, he builds recipes to make up for the deficit. Claudia V. MartinezThe restaurant’s pastry chef slices peaches into super-thin slices before pairing them with cornmeal cake and buttermilk ice cream. Tomatoes and cucumbers are side dishes for peach salad with lemon ricotta, herbs and crunchy granola.The bartender is wondering what to do use peach pit For non-alcoholic cocktails.

It’s been a tough year for southern peaches, but there is one silver lining. “I would say that the very little that is available really shines,” Satterfield said.

Some chefs have given up.Erika Council, owner of breakfast spot Erika Council in Atlanta bomb biscuits, I grew up eating and cooking southern peaches. Her grandmother, known as Mama Dip, was of the Mildred Council and opened a popular restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, after which she authored two cookbooks.

Council is making jams with pineapple and cantaloupe instead of peaches, but customers will have to wait until next year for Georgian peaches and peach reaper sauce. Carolina Reaper Peppers.

“Peaches are so expensive that I would have to use canned or frozen ones, but I’m not going to do that,” she said.

In a pinch, some peach purists in Georgia may turn to South Carolina, the second-largest peach producer after California. (For the record, California will grow 475,000 tons of peaches in 2022, well below South Carolina’s 67,400 tons and Georgia’s 24,800 tons. .)

Similar terroirs and long, hot summer days in the two southern states produce complex, sweet and fragrant fruit. Many of the cultivars are the same. Sometimes even the most peach-eating Southerners can’t tell the difference.

apart from rivalry As for which tastes better, the states are united in repelling peaches from the North and West. “We have friendly competition, but we want people to buy peaches from the Southeast,” said Eva Moore, director of public affairs for the South Carolina Department of Agriculture.

Pain in the South Continues felt in new englandThere, the trees have endured fluctuating weather, including cold snaps in February, when temperatures dip below freezing and flowers die.

“I don’t think New England has peaches,” he said. Joe ChakovskyHe owns several acres of fruit trees on his farm in Hadley, Massachusetts.

But between there and the South lies a success story. In New Jersey, this summer’s peach harvest is spectacular. Peggy Adam said the weather was perfect, without too much rain that would turn the peaches mushy. New Jersey Peach Promotion Council.

“But it shouldn’t be said that the loss of the South is the gain of Jersey,” she said.

California is having a particularly good year, too. “We’ve been lucky,” said Chelsea Ketelsen, which is run by her family. HMC Farms, south of Fresno. “The summer was cooler than usual, so there was more sugar than usual.”

Like other farms in California, HMC is doing its best to fill the national gap created by supply shortages in the South. And while Ketersen has nothing but respect for the Georgia Peach partisans, he encourages them to take their chances.

“If you have to settle down in California, this is the year to do it,” she said.

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