Time for some fresh Virginia peaches

peachesVirginians looking for the perfect peach to sweeten their summer won’t have to wait much longer. According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), the state’s peach season has started with the first early varieties.

Although there may be slightly fewer early peaches due to the very cold winter season, growers are expecting a great crop of Virginia’s best-tasting varieties starting in mid-July. In Central Virginia, growers report that weather conditions have been a little dry, which is perfect for bringing out the fruit’s sugar to develop a sweet-tasting peach. An abundant supply of peaches is expected through early September.

Peach fans are encouraged to visit VirginiaGrown.com to locate pick-your-own orchards and markets selling tree-ripened Virginia peaches. In addition to fresh peaches, some orchard markets and farm stands offer special events and peach treats to attract customers throughout the season. Many neighborhood markets, grocery stores and supermarkets also offer Virginia Grown peaches.

According to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture data from the 2012 Census of Agriculture, Virginia has 244 peach farms with a total 1,375 bearing-age acres. In 2012, Virginia produced 6,500 tons of peaches valued at almost $6 million.

The state’s main peach-growing regions are in Central, Northern and Southwestern Virginia. Many varieties perform well in Virginia and the state’s growers offer an assortment of yellow peaches, white peaches, donut peaches and nectarines. Successful peach production requires growing varieties that are adapted to local growing conditions. And because different varieties ripen during different times of the season, there’s a plentiful supply of fruit throughout the summer months. A few of Virginia’s peach varieties include Blake, Encore, Laurol, Loring, Redhaven, Sentry, Sugar Giant, Sugar May and White Lady.

Virginians can celebrate fresh, summertime peaches at upcoming festivals across the state. Carter Mountain Orchard in Charlottesville holds its Ol’ Fashioned Peach Festival on July 26-27. The Peach Festival at Marker Miller Orchards in Winchester is August 9 and the Dog Days Peach Festival at Great Country Farms in Loudoun County is August 9-10. The 26th annual Virginia Peach Festival in Patrick County takes place August 15. VDACS provides a month-by-month online listing of food festivals taking place across the state.

Fresh peaches are a highly nutritious food. They are a good source of energy, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, iron, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin B (folate) and vitamin C. One medium peach contains about 60 calories. Recipes featuring Virginia Grown peaches are available on VirginiaGrown.com. Farmers, consumers and markets are encouraged to use the social media hashtag #VirginiaGrown to share what’s fresh throughout the season.



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