The New Jersey Peach Promotion Council is funding research on new peach varieties so the state can stay competitive.

Two peach experts from Rutgers University are conducting the research, Hemant Gohil, agricultural agent for fruit science and Dan Ward, extension tree fruit specialist.

Ward said they're studying how peaches perform in the field and in storage, and how the fruit quality holds up after harvest -- to make it more profitable and efficient for the growers to handle and sell them.

While Ward is not quite sure how many variety of peaches are grown in New Jersey, he said the really important varieties number to about 30 to 40. Each year people are trying new varieties, replacing old ones with better ones.

To have peaches all season, Ward said, several varieties have to be harvested in sequence, one right after another. He said peaches that are grown in New Jersey are not all the same in terms of flavor or color. There are peaches with different flavors and textures that are offered to the consumer from the start of the season to the end of the season now, which differentiates the market somewhat.

Folks who are accustomed to eating one kind of peach may find they like a different kind -- perhaps a white peach with a more aromatic flavor or a peach with a firmer texture. These things allow the peach experts to sell peaches to people who might not eat as many of the traditional yellow, melting flesh peaches that most of us grew up with and know. There may be other people who wish to have peaches with the white flesh, which are more aromatic.

"By creating new varieties and developing them and figuring out how to best harvest and handle them, we give the growers the opportunity to offer a broad palate of peach types to the consumer, thereby, increasing consumption," Ward said.

Peach harvesting season begins in June for some varieties, said Ward. There is many in July and peak harvesting season is August. However there are a few that carry over into September. The different varieties that ripe at different times span over the course of about two and a half months.

While new varieties of peaches will be offered this season in New Jersey such as Brigantine peaches, the fruit is not sold by variety in grocery stores or farmers markets like apples. It's normally either yellow or white peaches.

Ward said the reason for this is because the season for any one variety of peach tends to be fairly short. The storage life for peaches is much shorter than the storage life like other fruits such as apples or pears.

When picking a top quality peach, Ward recommends looking at the color of the skin. Look at change in ground color--the less green, the better. Also, smell the fruit for the aroma you desire.

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