First Chilton County peaches of the season picked

Published 8:12 pm Friday, May 13, 2016

Peach season in Chilton County is underway.

The first Chilton County peaches of the year are being picked, according to Jim Pitts with the Chilton Research and Extension Center.

Peaches may already be available at various farmer’s markets around the county but will likely become a common sight over the course of the coming week.

Of course, the earliest varieties of peaches are not considered as pretty or tasty as those yet to come, but the availability of any fresh, locally grown peach is cause for excitement.

Pitts said this year’s crop has been hit or miss.

“Some growers are a little disappointed, and others are tickled,” Pitts said. “It depends on who you talk to.”

A lack of chill hours seems to be a hindrance for many varieties.

Not enough chill hours can lead to peaches that are less round and more pointed. Earlier varieties, which do not require as many chill hours, are usually less affected.

Also, a heavy bloom period made growers think fruit would be plentiful on the trees. So, they spent much effort “thinning” the trees, or knocking off what they thought would be excess blooms.

However, in many cases, some of the remaining blooms did not “stick,” Pitts said, leaving those trees with less fruit than growers would consider ideal.

“It was a gamble, and this year, it wasn’t the way to go,” Pitts said about the thinning.

However, the quality of fruit that has already been picked is a reason for optimism.

A drier than average spring should yield tasty fruit, as Pitts said overly wet weather can cause the sugar in fruit to be diluted.

“Fruit always does a little better on the dry side than the wet side,” he said. “Right now, things are looking pretty good.”