JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you bite into a Florida peach this season and it tastes really good, thank the cold.
The extra chilly hours during the abnormally cold January have boosted the flavor of the fruit and providing a higher fruit yield.
Growers say the cold winter has made a strong crop this spring and they will not have to fool crops into thinking they have had enough chilling by applying growth regulators.
Harvesting is set to begin at the end of March with crops increasing into the last two weeks of April and early May.
But wait, who knew so many peaches were grown in Florida? After all, Georgia is known as the Peach State.
Business is growing for Florida peaches, especially over the past decade.
Peachtree acreage has rapidly expanded in the sunshine state thanks to cultivars developed at the University of Florida.
Florida peaches are different in that they can be eaten quicker since they ripen on the tree.
After Chilean imports end, Florida peaches ripen in time before Georgia, California and South Carolina enter the market.
Early ripening is an important trait for Florida peach cultivars, but it can be slowed down in colder conditions during the growing season.
Inadequate chilling hours, the number of hours between freezing and 45 degrees, can result in poor bud break and weakened trees but this is not a problem this year.
We will have to wait a few weeks longer to enjoy the great taste since warmer temperatures compress growth while cooler temperatures lengthening the fruiting process.