The Georgia peach season lasts from May to mid-August. Ruth & I were disappointed that we couldn’t find a genuine fresh peach as we traveled around the state in early September. The 2 ladies at a Georgia Welcome Center had a partial solution. They told us about Fort Valley, the center of Georgia’s peach production in the 21st century and Lane. Lane has been growing peaches and selling peach products and fresh peaches for more than 100 years. With stars in their eyes the ladies told us to have lunch at Lane and drew the road to it on a map with a pink marker. They were ecstatic about Lane. We liked it, but it reminded me a lot of the Tilamook Cheese Factory and other commercial food purveyors around the country.
Major peach production thrived in Georgia after the Civil War. It’s now The Official State Fruit. Members of the rose family, peaches do well in Georgia because they get enough winter chill but no late frosts. Georgia’s sandy soil is ideal for peach trees. We saw lots of cotton and peanut fields but craved fresh peaches. For a long time after the Civil War, the Elberta variety of peach with its firm yellow flesh dominated the industry, until the mid-20th century. Belle and Hale are now common as are many other varieties. Peaches originated in China. PJ Berckmans emigrated from Belgium to Augusta, GA in the 1850s and grew lots of peaches. His property was eventually bought by investors who put a golf course on it that became home to the Masters Tournament.
Lane, which was switching from fresh peach sales to pecans and fall activities like hayrides when we arrived, has more than 5,000 acres of peach trees. We had to content ourselves with glass-jarred peaches that were OK but not really to our taste. We did manage to finish them in 3 days, however. The peach cobbler that we had with lunch was sensational. I have a Lane recipe for a pecan, bacon, and jalapeno cheese ball if anyone is interested. I’ll be happy to share it with you.
According to a Georgia culinary guide, the peach is so identified with this state that about 70 streets in its capital, Atlanta, have the word peach in their names. We were on some Peach Parkways as we traveled around the state. The peach is on most license plates too.