Have questions about California peaches, plums and nectarines? Chances are, you'll find the answers here. Following are questions commonly asked by our customers
California is the largest producer of peaches, plums and nectarines. Most are grown in the San Joaquin Valley, just south of Fresno, California. In fact, California produces over 90 percent of the nectarines and plums grown in the U.S. and provides approximately 60 percent of all the peaches. South Carolina is a distant second in peach production growing 15 percent of the U.S. crop, while Georgia comes in third supplying 13 percent of all U.S. peaches.
California peaches, plums and nectarines are available mid-May through September. Limited quantities may be available in early May and as late as October.
There are over 200 varieties of peaches, 200 varieties of plums and 175 varieties of nectarines sold commercially from California--each with their own specific harvest time, flavor and color characteristics.
A nectarine is really a distinct fruit all its own. The nectarine and the peach are so similar that there is only one gene that separates the two to make them distinct. The nectarine has one recessive gene … the one with the fuzz.
Prominent pomologists, such as Luther Burbank, have argued that the nectarine actually predates the peach and that the nectarine, not the peach, represents the ancestral form. It is quite possible that peaches are a cross between nectarines and almonds.
Stickers are the fresh produce industry's version of a UPC code, or bar code that comes on packaged goods that store checkers scan. In recent years, retail grocery stores have asked that tree fruit growers and shippers apply stickers to the fruit to aid cashiers in properly ringing up the fruit at the checkout stand and to help track fruit sales.
High heat will actually damage fruit, causing it to become dry and mealy. The sun will cause it to shrivel. The best way to ripen firm fruit is to place it in a paper bag or fruit bowl, at room temperature, for 1 - 3 days.
California growers strive to produce a plentiful and high quality crop of fresh peaches, plums and nectarines free of insects, fungus and disease with the utmost concern of producing a safe product. In general, growers will apply a pesticide in the winter--when trees are dormant and no fruit is present in the orchard--to control bugs and reduce populations before the trees bear fruit. If necessary, they will apply pesticides again in the spring and/or late summer. They may also use a fungicide during the course of the year to prevent molds and fungus from destroying the fruit after you purchase it and bring it home. Growers try, whenever possible, to use pest control methods other than chemicals, such as Integrated Pest Management. As a result, very little if any pesticide residue remains on the fruit by the time it reaches consumers. As an added precaution, all fruit should be rinsed in cold running water before it is eaten.
Many growers now incorporate what are called Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, farming practices. This kind of farming seeks to reduce the use of conventional pesticides. Growers monitor exactly what kinds of pests they have and then treat these pests with natural predators; or, employ a technique called pheromone mating disruption which is designed to prevent bugs from breeding so that populations of bugs are greatly reduced in the next generation. This results in less use of chemicals.
California has the world's strictest safety regulations concerning the use of agricultural pesticides. There are laws that govern what chemical can be used, how much can be applied, when it can be applied and how it is applied. In California, growers are required to obtain a permit each time they apply a chemical to their orchard which is filed with the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.
There are rules designed to protect workers when pesticides are applied and there is always a period of time, usually a week or more, after the application when workers are not allowed to enter the orchard. Farm workers are required to wear protective clothing and may only apply products under the direction of a licensed pest control advisor or operator. These rules and regulations are continually reviewed and updated and there are strict penalties for farmers who are noncompliant.
Federal and state governments monitor all produce available in U.S. stores. They test produce continually for pesticide residue. The vast majority of fruit found in stores has no detectable pesticide residue and any residue found on a very small percentage of fruit is well below levels considered safe for consumption.
In recent research conducted by the University of California, fresh peaches, plums and nectarines were found to be of low-concern status when it comes to microbial food safety. It is always recommended that consumers rinse fresh peaches, plums and nectarines in cold running water before consumption.
To peel peaches, first cut a small X in the bottom of the peach. Using a slotted spoon, immerse the peach in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds, then remove and place briefly in ice water. Remove the peach from the ice water and peel the skin starting from the X. If the skin does not peel back easily, immerse the fruit in the boiling water for a few moments longer.