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Peach, nectarine crops great, just a bit late

GLASSBORO — New Jersey’s peach crop looks vigorous this year and is expected to yield about 30,000-35,000 tons of fruit from the state’s 5,500 acres of trees.
“Our peach buds survived a brutal winter, a cool and frosty spring, and are still loaded with fruit,” said Jerry Frecon, Rutgers professor emeritus of fruit science, currently a consultant to the New Jersey Peach Promotion Council, and editor of the annual New Jersey Peach Buyers Guide for wholesalers and retailers.
Good news for growers and lovers of Jersey-grown peaches: Some of the best growers of the year’s peach crop are excited about the quality and size of their crops.
This summer’s favorite fruit is coming to market about 10 days later than usual, around the second week in July, according to growers polled including Santo John Maccherone, chairman of the PPC and owner of Circle M Farms in Salem.
Maccherone, who harvests 50,000 to 59,000 half-bushels at his Circle M Farms, and Tom Holtzhauser, who harvests 20,000-29,000 half-bushels on Holtzhauser Farms in Mullica Hill. Both expect “beautiful, flavorful crops.”
Dr. Lewis DeEugenio, Summit City Farms owner and president of the Jersey Fruit Marketing Cooperative in Glassboro, says, “We expect an abundant crop of tree fruit this summer. Our farm was started by my grandfather in 1922 with 7.5 acres at the site of our home farm. We have expanded to 500 acres of predominantly peach, nectarine, apples, corn and pumpkins.
“We recently opened a farm winery with emphasis on fruit wines - especially peach and nectarine. The coldest winter in many, many years thinned the fruit on trees such that excellent size and quality should be available beginning in early July. Rain and moderate temperatures in May resulted in very good growing conditions. By mid-July, good quantities of Sentry and other commercially grown varieties will be available. The season will then be continuous and abundant through mid-September. Nectarines will begin in later July and be available through early September.”
Al Caggiano Jr., who harvests more than 250,000 half-bushels at Sunny Slope Orchards in Bridgeton, reports that he expects a full crop ready for sale the second week in July and will be picking peaches well into mid-September.
John Hurff, who grows and markets a wide variety of peaches and nectarines at Wm. Schober Sons Orchards in Monroeville, expects to have a full crop for sale the second weekend of July.
“The peaches look great,” he says. “And we have them for sale through September 10th or 12th. It’s funny, but if the weather stays hot, people want peaches through September and into October.”
In Hunterdon County, John Melick harvests 10,000 to 19,000 half-bushels for his markets and local retailers. He expects to have his early season fruit in the markets by the second week of July, with his full harvest in markets in August. “Our crop is running about two to three weeks late this year, due to the late bloom,” he says. “But that means the peaches will be available later than usual — through September, maybe into October if the weather stays warm.”
He concurs with Hurff that when the weather stays warm, their customers want peaches.
Frecon is excited about the many new varieties growers now have in production from the Rutgers fruit breeding program.
“These new varieties extend the season and give us higher quality and more intensely flavored peaches both earlier and later during the growing season.”
He still feels the best flavored peaches are in August, “the official New Jersey Peach Month.”
The Peach Promotion Council stresses that New Jersey’s more than 100 varieties ripen at different times through the summer, starting with white-fleshed and yellow cling peaches and nectarines, and proceeding with yellow-fleshed, flat (or doughnut peaches) and nectarines throughout August and into September.