SC Peaches

By Kathy Torres

We had the perfect spring this year and that will soon be reflected in the plentiful South Carolina peach crop.  No late freezes came along (like last year) to destroy tender growth on peach trees and the prospect of their delightful, delicious fruit.  According to Sarah Scott, who covers commercial fruit and vegetable crops for Clemson University’s  Cooperative Extension Program, “We’ve got a great, full crop, so there should be plenty of peaches available for anyone who wants to get some really good South Carolina peaches.”  Great news after two freezes in March of 2023 left the state with about 25% of its typical crop.  Wingard’s Produce Market and local roadside stands already have early peaches for customers to purchase.  It’s time for peach ice cream, peach cobbler, The Peach Festival, or just an ordinary peach with no frills, to bring summer into full expectation and enjoyment!  There is not much better, my friends, than fresh South Carolina peaches.  They really are the BEST, don’t you think?

Our southern neighbors in Georgia, AKA The Peach State may disagree, but here are a few things to consider:

  1. According to the South Carolina Department of Agriculture statistics, the Palmetto State ships approximately 90,000 tons of South Carolina peaches a year from about 18,000 acres of peach orchards across the state, compared with Georgia’s 40,000 tons. Which state in the U.S. sells the most?  That would be California.
  2. Georgia is the first state to grow peaches commercially, thus, its title “The Peach State.”
  3. The College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences at Clemson University says that while Georgia may be called The Peach State, South Carolina should be known as “The Tastier Peach State.”
  4. In 1984, the SC Legislature adopted the peach as the official “State Fruit.”
  5. Peaches are native to China, so… neither SC or GA were first to grow them.

Spanish settlers were first to bring peaches to South Carolina in the 1500s, and as a result, many settlers in the 17th and 18th Centuries believed that peaches were native to South Carolina.  In the 1850s, South Carolina began to grow peaches commercially, finding it to be profitable in the produce market.  Their popularity blossomed as cotton farmers looked for new crops in the 1920s.

It is only fair to give Georgia credit for developing the infamous “Elberta” peach, one of the sweetest and most hardy varieties.  In 1870 Samuel H. Rumph, a Georgia farmer in Macon County, grafted a Chinese peach variety onto another tree and named the large, juicy, yellow-fleshed result after his wife, Elberta.  In the late 1800s, the sale of the Elberta peach actually helped fund the expansion of the Georgia Southern Railway.  Switching gears to the present, South Carolina grows more than 50 varieties of peaches, creating an industry that is a major contributor to SC’s economy.  To keep the industry growing, The Peach Team at Clemson University works on research and new technologies to protect peach crops.  For more on Clemson’s Peach Team, click HERE.

Peaches are either freestone or clingstone, referring to how easily the flesh separates from the pit (stone).  The clingstone varieties are the first available (late May, early June) followed by mid and late season (July, August) freestone peaches.  Clingstone peaches are usually smaller.  Unfortunately, it is impossible to tell the difference from the outside.  Freestone peaches are the largest and most popular.

Peaches are celebrated annually on July 4th at the Lexington County Peach Festival in Gilbert, SC.  Beginning with a parade in the morning, the activities include live entertainment, over 100 Art & Craft Exhibits, Antique Car Show, kid’s rides and many delightfully “peachy” food items.  This full day of fun and food ends in the evening with a Patriotic Fireworks Show.  The festival is hosted by the Gilbert Community Club and held at Gilbert Community Park.  For more information, click HERE.

Because this fruity treasure is (usually) abundant in our state, the easiest way to enjoy local peaches is to stop by a nearby Certified South Carolina (partnership with the SC Department of Agriculture) produce market and buy them.  However, if you prefer to grow your own, there are several varieties of peach trees available.  We typically recommend planting trees in the fall, but the inventory is full in spring, so you may have the best selection to choose from then.  As long as you water appropriately through the summer, you’ll be fine.  Fruit trees require some special attention because they are vulnerable to disease, so check out Wingard’s Fruit Tree Plan and get ahead of any problems.  Striking blooms are an added attraction of peach trees that you will enjoy, just keep your eyes on the spring weather forecast and protect the blooms and new growth when necessary.

Gaffney PeachoidIf you’re curious about this picture, and you’re not familiar, you are looking at the Peachoid.  Located on Interstate 85 in Gaffney, South Carolina, the Peachoid is a 135 ft. water tower that holds 1 million gallons of water.  The structure is hard to miss and symbolic of Gaffney, often referred to as “The Peach Capital of South Carolina.”  For a few more details on the largest peach in the world, click HERE.

My Dad grew up in Gaffney and my grandparents later moved to nearby Inman.  Being in the heart of many peach groves, I am fortunate to have memories of picking ripe peaches right off the trees.  Of course, the fuzz caused itchy hands and arms, but the reward was worth the sacrifice.  After picking, we washed, peeled and cut them and then my grandmother made the most delicious peach preserves. She canned them, so we were able to enjoy the yummy preserves for months after summer ended.  I also remember eating peaches with the skin still on and the juice dripping all over my chin.  Oh my, that was good!

If you’re from South Carolina, you should have a cherished family peach cobbler recipe in your collection.  If you don’t, here’s one of my Mom’s recipes that has been a favorite in my family for many years.  It’s so easy to make and there is NEVER a bite left in the dish.  It’s great with vanilla ice cream when the cobbler is still warm or delicious all by itself!


(Makes its own crust! – Feeds about 6-8 people)

Preheat Oven to 350°

Peel and slice fresh Peaches into small sections (about 2” x 2”) to make 3 Cups
Add ¾ to 1 Cup Sugar to Peaches, stir gently and let sit for about 30 minutes

In a bowl, combine: 1 Cup Sugar, 2 Tsp. Baking Powder, ¾ Cup Flour, ¾ Cup Whole Milk, Dash Salt
Melt ¾ Stick of Butter in a deep casserole dish
When Butter has melted, pour above Sugar/Flour mixture into the butter – DO NOT STIR!
Pour Peaches into center of melted butter – DO NOT STIR!
Bake 1 hour uncovered; When done, let it cool off a little before serving; Good warm or cold

Stop by Wingard’s Produce Market for the very BEST local peaches. Freestone varieties should be arriving around July 4th. If you’re interested in planting your own fruit tree(s), come on in and talk to a staff member about peach or other fruit tree varieties and what it takes to grow them.

Don’t take the Georgia/South Carolina rivalry too seriously. Whether it’s a Bulldog versus a Gamecock or a peach versus a peach, just enjoy the game or the cobbler. Happy Summer!

There’s Always Something Blooming at Wingard’s!