The summer nostalgia of sticky, sweet peach juice dripping down your chin and off your hand and elbow probably invokes some strong feelings about which peaches are your favorite. And there’s no doubt North Texas is home to some beauties — like the Parker and the Freestone peach. But arguably, some say Fredericksburg peaches are the very best, and science might explain why.
Whether you call them Fredericksburg, Stonewall or Hill Country peaches, there’s something really special about the juicy stone fruit grown in Gillespie County. Agricultural experts suggest a unique combination of limestone-rich soil, cold (but not too cold) winters, hot summers, and the ideal day-to-night temperature variation is what yields the perfect peach. And, this little part of Hill Country has it all.
This area was once known for growing peanuts, but in the 1950s peanuts became less economical and harder to grow, and farmers needed a new crop. And they turned the area’s existing peach trees into what are now expansive, multi-generational orchards.
We don’t know exactly when the first peach tree arrived in Texas, but we do know the German settlers in the Fredericksburg area began growing the native Chinese fruit in the mid-1800s. Today, peaches are the leading deciduous fruit crop in Texas, with an estimated half-million trees planted for commercial use statewide. And while there are several high peach-producing areas in the state, Gillespie County, outside Austin, is one of the largest with approximately 600 acres of planted peach trees.
But peach farming doesn’t come without environmental challenges like the Great Texas Freeze in 2020. Or the intense heat and extreme drought farmers in Gillespie County are facing now. As KSAT.com reports, the lack of rainfall means farmers need to run irrigation systems daily, and if those systems fail, consequences for the crops could be catastrophic.
However, some farmers like Russ Studebaker of Studebaker Farms have implemented some innovative farming methods to help combat these unprecedented weather events and climate change concerns. Studebaker uses high tunnels — which protect plants from severe weather and allow farmers to extend their growing seasons.
“The high tunnel allows me to get peaches earlier in the season, it allows me to irrigate using surface emitters reducing root rot, apply pesticides more efficiently, and reduce the risk of nutrient runoff into the nearby creeks,” Studebaker told the United States Department of Agriculture.
WHERE TO GET HILL COUNTRY PEACHES
So you might be asking yourself now, how do I get my hands on those one-of-a-kind Hill Country peaches? And you are in luck. Because Hill Country peach season typically runs from mid-May through the end of August, and we’re currently in its prime.
If you’re in the mood for a weekend getaway or summer vacation road trip, you can take a just under a five-hour drive to Gillespie County and get them directly from the orchards. Over twenty varieties of Hill Country peaches can be found for sale at roadside markets between Fredericksburg and Stonewall, and at the Fredericksburg Farmers Market. And if standing in a picturesque peach orchard on a beautiful summer day is your thing, you can even pick your own at Jenschke Orchards.
For those of you who won’t be taking a trip down to Gillespie County, you can still find Hill Country peaches and a variety of specialty food items highlighting the famed stone fruit right here in North Texas. Central Market carries Fredericksburg area peaches now through the end of summer, but they recommend reaching out to the store before shopping to make sure they have them in stock as quantities change often.
Fredericksburg Peach Tea by Texas Tea uses fresh Fredericksburg peach puree. And you can find it in Whole Foods, Central Market and Tom Thumb. And, Fredericksburg Peach Jam by New Canaan Farms and Fredericksburg Peach Salsa by Fredericksburg Farms are also available at Central Market.
You can also purchase specialty food items online from Fredericksburg-based Fischer & Wieser. All of their peach products are on sale now until the end of June including their peach moscato made from the peaches that grow in their orchard.
If reading this got you craving peaches, here are some cool things North Texas restaurants are doing with our state’s peaches right now:
- Go to Hoff’s Steaks & Steins in Frisco for a sea salt caramel streusel made with Fredericksburg peaches.
- Head to Patina Green Home and Market in McKinney for what the Food Network named “Best In Texas.” Their hickory-smoked ham sandwich that’s held together with award-winning jalapeño peach jelly from Luscombe Farms.
- Over at Bellagreen in Plano there’s a peach salad on the seasonal menu made with grilled Fredericksburg peaches, arugula, baby spinach, strawberries, red onion, goat cheese, candied pecans, microgreens and tossed in a maple vinaigrette.
- And, on the menu over at Fork and Fire in Plano are grilled and glazed peaches from Cooper Farms served with peach crème for dessert.
In case you missed it, check out Local Profile‘s guide to the best wine in Fredericksburg.