10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Georgia Peaches
Things are just peachy here in Georgia even when the beloved Official State Fruit is out of season. Here are ten things you might not have known about the peaches that call Georgia home.
1.) The U.S. Department of Agriculture ranks Georgia as one of the top four peach producing states along with California, South Carolina and New Jersey.
2.) The peach is a member of the rose family.
3.) Peaches originally came from China. They were traded along the Silk Road and made their way to Europe before eventually gracing American groves. According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, "Franciscan monks introduced peaches to St. Simons and Cumberland islands along Georgia's coast in 1571."
4.) During Reconstruction, Georgia farmers were forced to diversify their crops. As the boll weevil moved in and destroyed many cotton crops, farmers added pecans, onions, apples and peaches.
5.) Georgia's peaches mainly grow in Crawford, Taylor, Macon and Peach counties.
6.) Georgia peaches are used in some of the nation's top restaurants. The fruit from Pearson Farms in Fort Valley is on tables at Per Se (one of the world's most expensive restaurants) in New York City, Hugh Acheson's restaurants throughout Georgia, The French Laundry in Yountville, California, and Bayou Bakery on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
7.) Berckmans Nursery was a hub for horticulture in the mid to late 1800s in Augusta. At the complex, the Berckmans family worked to develop breeds of peaches that would thrive in Georgia's climate, leading to Georgia's prosperous crops for generations. Prosper Berckmans soon became known as the "Father of Peach Culture." Today, named after the largest Georgia Peach farm "Fruitland Nurseries" from the 1800s, Fruitland Augusta vodkas are made with actual Georgia Peaches and are only available in Georgia.
8.) When legendary golfer and Atlanta native Bobby Jones was working to create what is now Augusta National Golf Club, Prosper Berckmans' sons were helping to design the landscaping. The Club would eventually take over the Berckmans Nursery area and incorporate it into the Club with the Berckmans' home, known as Fruitland Manor, becoming the Augusta National Clubhouse. Many of the varieties of plants (including peaches) that were part of Berckmans Nursery still thrive on Club property.
9.) Most of the peaches sold in Georgia are sold fresh. Despite the large number of bushels picked each year, there are no major processing operations in the state, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia.
10.) The World's Largest Peach Cobbler is made each year at the Georgia Peach Festival in Fort Valley. The enormously tasty creation is 11 by 5 feet and about eight inches deep. Tasting the cobbler is free.