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The Gillespie County Peach Wars

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It is late June, the heart of peach season in the Texas Hill Country.  Each morning in Gillespie County is D-Day, and there is an army of peach hungry shoppers lined up at the gate of a local orchard, engines running, checking their clocks, waiting for H-Hour: 8:00 AM.  At the peach stand, a handful of wary locals hang back, eyeing the incoming cars battling for shaded parking spots.  The workers are armed with cardboard boxes folded the afternoon before.  Their leaders have already been out to survey the battlefield (peach orchard) in their assault vehicles (golf carts).  The army of invaders are hardened peach combat veterans, memories of sweet peach juice dribbling down their chins, visions of sweet peach cobbler driving them into a picking frenzy, impatiently suffering through the preparatory talk, their fingers twitching with anticipation.

The Battlefield

Peach Orchard

Photo: Robert Deming

This peach orchard is nearing 40 years of age and has hundreds of trees.  There 12 varieties of peaches represented, each variety with its own ripening time. Peach production is spread over the months from mid-May to early August.  With just one variety of peach, the whole season would be just 10 to 14 days long.  Red Globe is currently ripe, and is one of the most popular varieties.  However, most people could not tell the difference between the varieties in shape, color, or taste – they are very similar, and all wonderful.  Cling free peaches come later in the season when the heat causes the pit to separate from the fruit more easily.  This is only a matter of convenience, and has no effect on taste.

The Objective

The perfect Gillespie County peach on a tree
Photo: Robert Deming

Gold!  She said look for the gold!  Think pirate gold!  Red is not the sign of a ripe peach, it is gold.  The red is kind of like sunburn – caused by exposure to sunlight, but not a factor in ripeness or sweetness.  Peaches ripen only while on the tree, and if picked green, will never ripen.  

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