California peach harvest underway


The first peaches of the California stone fruit season have been picked this week in Kings County. Kingsburg Orchards’ Chad Allred said the season began a little later this year, adding that the first fruit off the trees included white and yellow peaches along with yellow nectarines.

“Harvesting began on Tuesday,” he announced. “Kingsburg Orchards is always one of the first to get going for the season. The first fruits were picked in the Kettleman region which enjoys a slightly warmer micro-climate. As a result, they are usually about five to seven days ahead of the main Central Valley growing region. We began with white and yellow peaches along with yellow nectarines. About five days behind will be apricots, closely followed by the white nectarines.”

“Kind” winter produced good bloom and crop
Growers are anticipating a good crop of stone fruit this year in California thanks to favorable winter growing conditions. The heavy rain earlier in the year was welcomed by stone fruit growers who can now finally enjoy ample water reserves, of which they have had limited access to since drought conditions took hold almost a decade ago.

“The winter has been kind to stone fruit growers with a good amount of rain and plenty of chill hours,” Allred noted. “As a result, the trees enjoyed a good sleep and a very good bloom. Once the bloom was over, we experienced a cooler patch of weather which was the cause of the slight delay in harvest, but overall conditions have been favorable for a good crop. This week we expect to see temperatures in the high 80s and low-mid 90s, which will be very good for the fruit. So far what we have seen being harvested has been beautiful – fruit with full color and a nice sugar content, along with good sizing considering the time of year.”

Allred provided a rundown of how the various stone fruit crops are expected to perform this season. “This weekend and into next week, we should start to see some more substantial volume. Overall, the crop is anticipated to be very good this year across the board. Peaches and nectarines should see average to slightly above average volume. At this stage, we are seeing a very full crop of apricots, along with good sizing. It can’t be described as being overloaded, but there are some real opportunities for promotions for retailers. For plums, predictions are for a light to medium crop depending on the time of year and variety. Overall, everything has lined up well for this season’s stone fruits.”

“Good eating fruit is our goal”
According to Allred, Kingsburg Orchards are always in the process of researching and developing new varieties. He explained the company’s research program involves natural methods such as cross-pollination, followed by trials and subsequent implementation should the results be positive. Some of the varieties that the company has been working on in the past four to five years are expected to enter production this year.

“Our focus has been to develop better eating peaches, nectarines, plums and other stone fruit and to do so using natural mechanisms,” he shared. “We research and trial the varieties until we come up with ones we are really happy with and as a result, are excited by their potential. Consumers like the specialty varieties, however they always gravitate back to peaches, nectarines and plums. Therefore, our goal is to produce a good eating fruit which will get people to come back to it regardless of the fruit’s size or how it looks. There are fewer growers of stone fruit in California now and the industry keeps changing. It’s that focus on flavor and quality that will keep consumers happy in the long run.”

by Fresh Plaza