After years of speaking with customers and answering numerous questions about peach varieties, we came to the conclusion that the only way to truly understand the difference is to experience each peach variety first hand. Since color, texture, and taste change throughout the season from one variety to the next, finding a way to share the whole peach experience proved tricky. Those of us in the business know which varieties to wait for and we all have our favorites. Some might call us “peach snobs,” but we prefer “peach aficionado.” Really, we’re just huge peach fans. We want to invite you to join us as peach connoisseurs by taking this journey down the Pearson Prince Peach Path.
What’s that saying, “Variety is the Spice of Life”? Well that holds true with everything it seems, including peaches. Did you know there are more than 2000 peach varieties grown throughout the world? That’s a lot to choose from, so you might wonder why there are so many, what makes each one different, and how farmers choose which varieties to grow. To answer these questions, we decided to enlist the help of some peachy experts. We are fortunate enough to have the two best experts in the field within a short drive of the Farm, and we had to start with Mr. Peach himself, Will McGehee. Will is the founding partner of Genuine Georgia. He eats, sleeps, breathes, but more importantly, sells all our Pearson Farm peaches. He knows everything there is to know about selling peaches, and I mean EVERYTHING! It doesn’t hurt that he’s also a Pearson and has grown up here on the Farm. We’ve cultivated hundreds of varieties over our 135 years, but today we only produce 50 with many bearing the Prince name. Will helped us choose the 6 most interesting Prince varieties to include in our Pearson Prince Subscription. These 6 boxes will offer an assortment of colors, flavors, and textures to arrive on your doorstep every week from June 11-July 23. You’ll get to experience different sizes of peaches, peaches shaped like hearts, and maybe even a few the size of softballs. We want you to see the meaning of “blush on yellow background,” chartreuse peelings, and decide for yourself which peach is referred to as a ‘supermodel.” We know you’ll learn the true difference between clingstone and freestone and maybe decide that the peaches that hold onto their pits aren’t that bad after all. Our true desire is for you to experience every wonderful, sweet, juicy thing you can about peaches in 6 short weeks and join us in our own little exclusive peach club.
To become a true “peach expert,” you’ll need a little history lesson in peach varieties, and for that we went to Dr. Dick Okie. He spent more than 30 years as a stone fruit breeder at the USDA-Agricultural Research Service up the road from the Farm. He tells us that back in the 1930’s, the farmers in this area were experiencing problems with their peach crops. They needed new varieties that would flourish in our soil and climate, and trees that would be resistant to the diseases that were wreaking havoc on their crops. Peach growers wanted firm fruit that could be shipped outside of Georgia and trees hearty enough to extend the season. They hoped these issues could be addressed by the new breeding program that was just getting started. John Weinberger was hired in 1937 as the first breeder at the Peach County office. Believe me when I tell you, tree breeding is a long process. Mr. Weinberger dedicated almost 20 years to the Fort Valley station, developing the foundation for a successful peach breeding program. Victor Prince came on board as his successor in 1955. Mr. Prince worked tirelessly for 25 years, adding his knowledge and experience to work previously started and refused to retire until his replacement, Dr. Dick Okie, was hired in 1980. With the combined efforts of his work and the work of his two predecessors, Dr. Okie was able to release the first Prince variety in 1981…. 50 years after the breeding program started! The science of tree breeding is more advanced than I could ever understand much less communicate, but the idea of 3 men and 80+ combined years of research is easy to define…. It’s called work ethic, and Pearson Farm was fortunate to be right here where all their hard work took place. We were even asked to test a few breeds on our Farm, which made it feel like these gentlemen were breeding peaches specifically for us.
The names of all the varieties was most intriguing to me. I learned that new varieties don’t receive their names until they are released for nursery production. Until that time, they are only identified by a series of letters and numbers. Doesn’t that sound so official, and something you might hear in a science fiction movie? I can almost hear the breeders saying, “BY87P944 has cropped well when chilling has been adequate,” or “BY92P7810 is a highly colored selection with excellent eating quality.” Since Dr. Okie was the breeder of record at the time the Prince varieties were released, he was bestowed the honor of giving them their names. He laughed when he told me that there is no real science to the naming process, but he did feel that brand identification was important for these new varieties. He chose to give them all a double name with the last name being “Prince” as a way of paying tribute to his predecessor, Victor Prince. The first names I learned were chosen for a variety of reasons. For instance, SPRINGPRINCE was named because it is harvested in the Spring, and RUBYPRINCE because of its mostly red color. I found the most interesting to be FLAMEPRINCE whose name was chosen because its first commercial harvest date coincided with the 1996 Olympics held in Atlanta, Georgia. Even though Mr. Al once told Dr. Okie, “Dick, there are too many Prince varieties,” we are so glad that he released 15 in the Prince series and proudly grow 11 of them today at Pearson Farm.
So now that we’ve increased your peach IQ, let’s see if we can expand your peach palate by inviting you to join us on this peach adventure. The season is quickly approaching, and the Prince Subscriptions will only be offered for a limited time, so make sure to place your orders early. We want your opinion of every box you receive, and we are excited to hear your comments. We’ll be honored to add you to our list of peachy professionals, and we can’t wait to follow your journey down the Pearson Prince Peach Path.
Click here to order your Pearson Prince Peach Subscription!