Healthy Foods

Why blueberries and peaches will be scarce in 2017

Blueberry and peach crops did not have a good February.

Blueberry and peach crops did not have a good February.  (iStock)

Pie fans, brace yourselves: The early spring and subsequent deep freeze across America's South has decimated the 2017 blueberry crop and peach crop.

The unseasonably warm weather hit Georgia and South Carolina in late February and early March, which caused the fruit crops to begin to bud — the first step they take each year toward ripening into mature fruit.

But on March 15, temperatures took a dive into the low 20s, killing those buds, which likely will not regrow again until next year.

Representatives from the Georgia Department of Agriculture estimate that farmers lost 80 percent of their blueberry crop, with Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black telling the Atlanta Business Chronicle that blueberry fields that, this year, held the potential to yield the best crop in Georgia's history, would now be lucky enough to offer enough fruit for one pie.

Similarly, the South Carolina Board of Agriculture told the Charlotte Observer that 80 to 90 percent of the state's peach crop had been wiped out by the sudden cold.

Since South Carolina is the largest producer of peaches on the East Coast, this could mean spending more money for less-than-stellar fruit when harvest time comes later this year.

If you're thinking you can replace your blueberry pies and peach cobblers with cool slices of watermelon, think again: Farmers are closely watching watermelons and peppers, which were also triggered earlier than usual due to the warm February weather.

But there is one ray of hope. Farmers are less concerned about strawberries, which have a tendency to reproduce throughout the spring season and are easier to protect from the harsh weather.

Strawberry-rhubarb pie, anyone?