Peaches and Blackberries are Early at Local Farm Markets

Summer arrived about three weeks early according to area farmers who have welcomed an early harvest. The latest early arrival at the farmers markets is a local crop of peaches and blackberries.

If you’ve shopped the area farmers markets, you probably noticed something different. Unseasonably early produce.

According to local farmers everything is running about three weeks early. Stuckmeyer’s produce stand at Arnold’s Farmers Market held baskets of peaches and blackberries in June. Those fruits are rarely found found in abundance or ripe until July.

With crops ripening about three weeks early, anyone who does home canning and preserving or plans to bag and freeze the local harvest needs to take heed.  Before you know it your favorite locally raised fruits and vegetables could be out of season. That’s what happened to me when I thought I had plenty of time to get locally grown strawberries, which played out before Memorial Day. 

When asked how this year compared to the normal growing season Chris Eckert, president of Eckert’s Farm Market said, “Who’s to say what’s normal anymore. Peaches and blackberries are early but our tomatoes aren’t. That’s why we established a harvest hotline to educate the consumer on what in season and what’s being picked.”

Since Eckert’s is renown for its peaches, growing 30 different varieties, its hotline featured peach reports. Yesterday, Eckert's emailed its subscribers to let them know that the current drought is slowing the ripening process in their Pick-Your-Own peach orchard. Peaches are not going to be available for picking this weekend, though they told readers that a "plentiful" supply is still available in the store.

Todd Vasel, the Assistant Director of Marketing & Advertising at Markets, told Patch that peaches are in strong supply in St. Louis area Dierbergs. Vasel said his store's local peaches are coming from a farm in Campbell, MO. 

Vasel said Missouri peaches would be in strong supply well into mid-August.

With a bumper crop expected this year for peaches and blackerries consider stocking up now by freezing some of this year’s harvest. To freeze peaches just peel, slice and treat with an anti-browning solution or toss in a little lemon-lime soda. Place in a single layer on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and freeze.  Once frozen, remove from the freezer and place peach slices in a freezer bag. Label, date and return them to freezer.  Use the same freezing technique (minus the lemon-lime toss) to freeze fresh berries. 

Cooks tip: To make peeling peaches easier, blanch first. To blanch, carefully drop peaches into boiling water for a minute or two, then remove and place in ice water for a minute. The skin will easily slip off the peach. 

This season promises to provide a bumper crop of locally grown peaches and blackberries. Savor them while they last. Eat them fresh or try them in one of the following recipes

Try a few peach recipes courtesy of Eckert's Orchards and Farm Market and Pillsbury.

Or try a Country-Style Peach Tart from Dierbergs recipe collection.


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