Our Peach Growing History
Dave Flannery, owner of Apple Holler has been growing peaches since he first started planting them in the spring of 2011. Dave knew he was taking a chance with planting a peach crop but he did his due diligence when it came to research and found out that there were a few hearty peach trees that grow better in the North and would be able to withstand our winter weather.
The winter of 2013/2014 was a disappointing year for the peach crop at Apple Holler, due to the extremely bitter temperatures that we experienced. There was not a single peach on any of the 500 peach trees; additionally, that season Dave lost about 50 peach trees from the temperatures that dipped as low as -20F. That was the winter that many of us learned a new weather term “Polar Vortex”.
Though losing 50 peach trees during that winter was disappointing, it didn’t discourage Dave from expanding the peach orchard. In the spring of 2014, he planted 1,000 more peach trees, focusing on varieties that ripen earlier.
This past winter the entire country saw unpredictable weather, which has caused a peach crop reduction as a whole. In fact, in the Northeast, the peach crop was decimated by a mid-February freeze that was followed by a cold snap in early April.
Closer to home, Wisconsin also experienced some cold weather with some of the later frosts threatening the fruit crops. For any of the fruit trees, peaches included, a freeze that occurs once the flower buds start to expand in spring is deadly.
Leaf buds are more durable, and even if killed by freezing temperatures, trees make secondary and tertiary leaf buds that will emerge if that primary leaf bud is killed. But flower buds do not have “backup buds”; if the flower buds are killed this winter, you will have to wait until next year for the possibility of fruit.
In other words…. No buds, no peaches!
However, this winter the conditions were just perfect for budding and blooming on our peach trees. We received warm weather and rain just at the times our peach trees needed them to produce one of our best peach crops ever.
Varieties of Peaches at Apple Holler
Earlier in this article we mentioned that Dave chose some of the heartier varieties of peach trees to plant. The full list of peach trees that we have in our orchard is below.
Peach Stone Types
In the above section, we mentioned that a few varieties were Free Stone or Semi-Free Stone…in case you were wondering what that means, or what’s the difference between the two, we wanted to share the following information from Gardening Know How:
Peaches are categorized based on the relationship between the pit and the peach flesh. In other words, how well the flesh attaches to the pit. So, we have clingstone peaches, freestone peaches and even semi-freestone peaches. All three can be found as white or yellow peaches. So, what is the difference between clingstone and freestone? And, what are semi-freestone peaches?
Clingstone vs Freestone The difference between clingstone and freestone peaches is very simple. You will definitely know if you are cutting into a clingstone peach. The pit (endocarp) will cling stubbornly to the flesh (mesocarp) of the peach.
Conversely, freestone peach pits are easy to remove. In fact, when a freestone peach is cut in half, the pit will fall freely from the fruit as you upend the half. Not so with clingstone peaches; you basically have to pry the pit out from the flesh, or cut or nibble around it.
Clingstone peaches are the first variety to be harvested in July through August. The flesh is yellow with splashes of red as it gets closer to the pit or stone. Clingstones are sweet, juicy, and soft — perfect for desserts and preferred for canning and preserves. This type of peach is often found canned in syrup in the supermarket rather than fresh.
Freestone peaches are most often eaten fresh, simply because the pit is easily removed. This variety of peach is ripe around late July through August. You are more likely to find these available fresh at your local market rather than clingstone varieties. They are a little bit larger than clingstones, firmer as well, but less sweet and juicy. Still, they are delicious for canning and baking purposes.
What are Semi-Freestone Peaches? The third type of peach stone fruit is called semi-freestone. Semi-freestone peaches are a newer, hybridized variety of peach, a combination between clingstone and freestone peaches. By the time the fruit has ripened, it has become primarily freestone, and the pit should be fairly easy to remove. It is a good general purpose peach, adequate for both eating fresh as well as canning or baking with.
Peach Picking Tips
If you decide that peach picking is a must on your summer bucket list, we wanted to share a few things you need to know when you come out to pick peaches.
When you come to Apple Holler to pick peaches, one of the things you may find is that you picked too many and you don’t want them to go bad, so you decide to freeze them. If you are not quite sure how to freeze peaches so you can enjoy them a few months from now, our friends at Better Homes & Gardens, offer the following:
Use a sharp knife to make a shallow X on the bottom of each peach. This step allows for expansion when the peaches get blanched in Step 2
- Bring a large pot of water to boiling.
- Fill a large bowl with ice water.
- Working in batches, carefully lower 3 or 4 peaches into the boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer peaches from boiling water to the bowl of ice water.
When the peaches are cool enough to handle, use a knife or your fingers to peel the skin from each peach.
- Using a sharp knife, cut each peeled peach in half around the pit.
- Gently twist each half to expose the pit.
- Using the knife, pry the pit out of the peach.
If desired, cut each peach half into slices.
here are three ways to freeze peaches:
Water Pack: Pack peaches into a pint- or quart-size freezer container or bag, leaving 1/2-inch headspace for pints and 1-inch headspace for quarts. Pour water over the peaches, maintaining the specified headspace.
Sugar Pack: Pack a small layer of peaches into a pint- or quart-size freezer container. Sprinkle lightly with sugar; repeat layering, leaving 1/2-inch headspace for pints and 1-inch headspace for quarts. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes or until juicy before freezing.
Syrup Pack: Prepare desired syrup (see below). Pack peaches into a pint- or quart-size freezer container or bag, leaving 1/2-inch headspace for pints and 1-inch headspace for quarts. Pour syrup over the peaches, maintaining the specified headspace.
To prepare syrup: Place the recommended amounts of sugar and water (see below) in a large saucepan. Heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and skim off foam, if necessary.
Tip: Allow 1/2 to 2/3 cup syrup for each 2 cups peaches.
Very Light Syrup: Use 1 cup sugar and 4 cups water to yield about 4 cups syrup.
Light Syrup: Use 1-2/3 cups sugar and 4 cups water to yield about 4-1/4 cups syrup.
Medium Syrup: Use 2-2/3 cups sugar and 4 cups water to yield about 4-2/3 cups syrup.
Heavy Syrup: Use 4 cups sugar and 4 cups water to yield about 5-3/4 cups syrup.
- Wipe container rims (if using).
- Seal containers or bags according to manufacturer’s directions, pressing out as much air as possible.
- If necessary, use freezer tape around lid for a tight seal.
- Label each container or bag with its contents, amount, and date. Lay bags flat; add bags or containers to freeze in batches to make sure they freeze quickly. Leave space between containers or bags so air can circulate around them.
- When frozen solid, the containers or bags can be placed closer together.
- Use frozen peaches within 8 to 10 months.
The following conversion list will give you an idea of how many peaches you will need for recipes if you decide to freeze or cook with your peaches.
One pound of peaches will equal
- 3 medium peaches
- 2 cups sliced peaches
- 1 ½ cups peach puree
2 medium to large peaches will equal
- 1 cup sliced peaches
2 to 2.5 lbs. peaches will equal
- 2 pints frozen
1 bushel of peaches will equal
- 32-48 pints frozen peaches