Courtesy Kingsburg OrchardsPeach production at Kingsburg Orchards, Kingsburg, Calif., started in the first week of April. Most California growers were underway by the second week of May.California peach production started off its season with good sugar content and normal volumes, giving sales some chance to benefit from Georgia’s slow start. Packinghouses there got underway about May 19, a week later than usual.
“Overall the brix have been very good, so have flavor and size,” said John Thiesen, division manager for Giumarra Bros. Fruit Co., Reedley, Calif. On May 23 Giumarra measured early rich — a yellow-flesh peach — at brix of 12.8.
“Even early on with spring princess, which is not heavily planted, we had brix of 13.5,” Thiesen said. “That one dropped for a couple of days after a rain.”
By the second week of May just about every California grower was harvesting its peaches. Some got out in front.
“We started much earlier, in the first week of April,” said Bob Maxwell, director of sales at Kingsburg Orchards.
“The weather issues this year have been minimal as far as an effect on the California peach crop,” Maxwell said. “Everyone wants to talk about water. But right now for us it’s OK.”
Giumarra started peaches April 19. A variety shift — to the early rich — began May 27.
“We have a bit of a gap right now,” Thiesen said. “The Flame 22s and crimson lady are done, our princess time has been done for a little while. Early rich is fairly heavily planted in this area; we’re waiting on a substantial amount. Other growers might have varieties that fit into this gap.”
For plums, Giumarra’s black splendors started May 26. Flavorosa was at the end of its run.
“Plums overall are a little more than we originally thought,” Thiesen said. “We may have underestimated the crop early. Plums have a way of showing up.”
“Inconsistency of set and maturity date will continue on for the rest of the season, but quality is excellent,” he said. “I don’t know of anyone whose entire field of any commodity is just a huge full crop. Odd trees are popping up in almost everyone’s orchard that even at thinning time do not have the set. Nine out of 10 trees will have a good set and one won’t for some reason.”
Kingsburg Orchards started its plums and nectarines in the first week of April, alongside peaches.
“It’s been a very well received beginning of the season in general for stone fruit,” Maxwell said. “California didn’t have a winter, but people in the Midwest and East are ready for the sun to start shining. They want to have some fresh fruit and go out on a picnic. It’s the 90 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day that’s the heart of our season. It has the marks of being a very good year.”
Yellow-flesh nectarines in 25-pound cartons shipped from Fresno, Calif., for mostly about $21 May 23 on sizes 70 to 72, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That was nearly identical to last year, but 2013 had a slower start.
Peaches were anywhere from one to two weeks earlier than last year; nectarines were consistently closer to two weeks early.
Yellow peaches are shipping in a wider range of sizes than nectarines. Sizes 70 to 72 were going for $22.85 to $24.85.