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The ultimate guide to enjoying Alabama’s peach season

Two things signal the unofficial start of summer in Alabama, the arrival of hot sticky days and the appearance of the first Chilton County peaches of Alabama’s peach season.

Promises of a good 2024 peach crop—much better than last year’s disastrous harvest—are proving true as the first varieties of the sweet and juicy fruit hit the stands in mid-May at local farmers markets and popular outlets like Peach Park and Durbin Farm’s Market, both off Interstate 65. The harvest should continue through August.

Alabama farmers grow dozens of peach varieties with names like Junegold, Redhaven, and Topaz, which mature at different times of the season. Each variety only produces fruit for 7-10 days, so orchards are planted with several varieties to ensure a crop throughout the summer.

Early-season peaches are collectively called Clingstones because the pit adheres to the peach flesh. Semi-Free, new hybrids with less clingy stones, arrive the first few weeks in June. Starting in late June, the popular Freestone varieties are available. They’re super-easy to peel and the pit removes cleanly.

Alabama’s white-fleshed peaches are generally considered sweeter and less acidic than their standard yellow counterparts. The white varieties are the preferred peach to mix with bubbly for Bellinis.

Alabama farmers harvest roughly 5 tons of peaches in a decent year, about 75 percent of which are grown in Chilton County. That doesn’t even put us in the top 10 nationwide. South Carolina (67,400 tons) and Georgia (24,800 tons) ranked second and third nationally in 2022 production, way behind California (475,000 tons). But folks in the Yellowhammer State will pit the flavor of their homegrown peaches over counterparts from elsewhere.

The weather across the Southern peach belt—Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina—has not been kind the last few years, reducing harvests. In 2023, growers across the South lost 80 percent or more of their overall crop after an unusually warm winter and a lingering late hard freeze in March.

This season, the weather has mostly been right. It’s already shaping up to be a good year for Alabama’s peach season according to local farmers.

And that’s sweet news for us.

Here are some tips on how and where to buy and store those precious peaches.

BUY

Find Alabama peaches at local pop-up farmers markets or seasonal farm stands. No trip down I-65 to the beach is complete without stopping by one or both of Chilton County’s great peach emporiums off Exit 205. Each of those market-restaurants (listed below) has desserts on the list of “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama” by the state tourism department.

Peach Park: 2300 Seventh Street South, Clanton (35046). “100” dish: Peach pie.

Durbin Farms Market: 2130 Seventh Street South, Clanton (35045). “100″ dish: Peach ice cream.

PICK

U-pick berry farms are more numerous than those offering peaches. Most peach orchards pick what they sell, but here are a couple where you can pick your own. Call for times and availability.

McCraw Farms: 7299 County Road 15, Maplesville (36750). 334-366-4263.

Scott’s Orchard: 2163 Scott Road, Hazel Green (35750). 256-828-4563.

STORE

Peaches are picked and chilled before they fully ripen, so it’s okay if they’re firm when purchased. Let them sit on the counter for a few days to soften. They’re usually at their peak for three or four days after that at room temperature. Storing just-softened peaches in the refrigerator adds a few more days.

Freeze peeled and sliced pieces to prolong your peachy pleasure after Alabama’s peach season ends. They’ll stay good for about a year—just long enough to get you to the next home-state harvest.

Courtesy of SoulGrown Alabama.

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