Georgia Peaches: A Ripe Legacy

Some have tried to challenge Georgia as the "Peach State," to no avail. For Duke Lane Jr., who runs a 100-year-old peach orchard in Fort Valley, it's hard to beat the taste of a Georgia peach. People just know to look for Georgia peaches, Lane says.

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KATHY LOHR: Wait a minute, Debbie. Georgia is the peach state. I'm Kathy Lohr in Atlanta. Here's what Duke Lane, Jr. says. He is in Fort Valley, Georgia, south of Macon, where the summer days are hot and the soil is sandy and rich.

M: I don't think it's any secret. I don't - I'm not saying that there's not good peaches grown in other states, but just the history of the taste of the Georgia peach, I think, just speaks for itself.

LOHR: The family grows 25,000 acres of peach trees. I watch as the couple of dozen men walk through the orchard. They hold up heavy branches and handpick each ripe peach, placing it gently into a plastic bin. Duke's great-grandfather started the business in 1908, but Georgia's success dates back to the 1870s. That's when a local grower developed a sweet yellow variety and named it after his wife, Elberta.

M: I think the taste of that peach parlayed the whole Georgia peach industry into a situation where people just know to look for Georgia peaches.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHATTER)

LOHR: At the farmers market in Fort Valley, the fruit is sorted, packed and shipped, mainly to the destinations across the East Coast. Duke Lane, Jr. says no one can compete with Georgia.

M: There have been several times that the name the Peach State has been tried to wrestle away from us, but we've managed to hold on to the name.

LOHR: All summer long, thousands stop in to taste homemade peach cobbler and to pick up a basket of peaches to take home.

M: They look mighty good.

LOHR: This Floridian, Sharon Murray, says you have to drive to Georgia to get the best.

M: I've had South Carolina peaches and all peaches from all over the place, but there's nothing like a Georgia peach.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: That's all it is to it.

LOHR: You just got to have it, huh?

M: Got to have it.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LOHR: All right, I will admit, the telltale signs of the good peach are the same here as they are in Alabama.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUNCHING)

M: Mm, mm. See how the juices run down my hand, mouth, on into my shirt?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUNCHING)

M: Mm, mm, mm.

Kathy Lohr, NPR News, Atlanta.

M: It almost makes you want to grab it from me, doesn't it?

(SOUNDBITE MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: The Southern peach battle continues on our website, npr.org, where you can find recipes for peach ice cream and peach cobbler. Mm. Submit your own peach recipes as well.

(SOUNDBITE MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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