Our peaches are picked when they are firm and put right into a hydro-cooling bath. Washing accomplishes two things. First, it removes field dirt and cleans the peach fuzz. At the same time, the cold water “sets” the peach, arresting its tendency to continue ripening as if it were still on the tree. After the refreshing bath, the fruit is put on a conveyor belt where eagle-eyed inspectors study each one for firmness and color–discarding any imperfect specimens. Finally, the cream of the crop is run through a “de-fuzzer” to be shaved of excessive peach fuzz, and only then is it packed and delivered within two days.
Georgia’s sunny weather helps the ripening process along in fine style! The longer a peach remains on the tree the more acid turns to sugar, making it a sweet peach! A peach will ripen faster on a tree in one hour than it will in 60 days in cold storage. Now that is interesting!
Weather is not the only determining factor in producing a splendid yield. The grower has to control growth of the peaches by careful pruning. First of all, peach trees bear fruit only on shoots from the previous year. If a tree is not pruned, growth occurs farther and farther from the ground as time goes on. Equally important is the spring and summer chores of removing poorly developed fruit. This guarantees that the nourishment will only infuse the “keepers.” Normally, the super-abundant blossoms can create yields so heavy that they can break the branches. That’s why so much time and effort is spent weeding out undesirable fruit. Peach growers don’t want to raise “giant-sized” peaches; they consider three inches in diameter an optimum size. Peaches like that develop well when spaced approximately eight inches apart.
Peach trees need a great deal of watering to develop good-sized, juicy fruit, and the growers can usually count on Mother Nature to supply the needed rain. The trees in the grove look healthy, and the peaches are in excellent shape. Since the vigilant growers keep the ground around the tree free of fallen fruit that can attract pests, the orchard looks like a well-tended garden. Care is always taken to keep the cover crop attractive to the plant bugs (tent caterpillars, et al.) if the cover crop dries up, plant bugs will move up into the trees. No one wants that!
The botanical name for the peach is Primus Persica, reflecting the generally held belief that the fruit originated in Persia; peaches used to be called “Persian apples.” Actually, the peach originated in China (there are references to it in the writings of Confucius in the Fifth Century B. C.) and it symbolized longevity, immortality, and fertility. Wild peaches still grow in northern China, and in other parts of the country, ornamental varieties are cultivated for the beauty of their blossoms.
In the pre-Christian era, the peach was conveyed along ancient trade routes to Persia, and in the Fourth Century B. C. in Greece. Virgil in Rome wrote of the fruit in the First Century B. C. Cultivation of the peach spread throughout Europe, and the Spaniards carried it to the New World (possibly on one of Columbus’s voyages). It was not until the Eighteen Century that peaches began to be cultivated throughout North America.