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Food & Drink

Pit stop for peaches

It’s summertime and for people in the South, one think immediately comes to mind.

“Peaches… that’s summertime,” said peach lover John Suzuki. Peach season begins in May and runs until late September, but because of an early and usually warm summer, peach season started earlier than expected and the tastiest peaches of the season are ripe right now.

“We’re just getting into the good peaches now,” said Dick Perdue, owner and operator of Perdue Farms in South Carolina.

For the best peaches, you might want to make a pit stop in South Carolina during your summer travels where you will find dozens of peach stands along the sides of the country roads.

“Georgia may have the name ‘The Peach State’ but we have more peaches and tastier peaches,” said Henry Jolly, mayor of Gaffney, South Carolina.

Peach farms line Highway 11 in upstate South Carolina and customers come from far and wide to pick up a sweet, healthy treat.

“The peaches are not only tasty, they are huge!” said Suzuki who lives in New York City. “You don’t see peaches the size of your fist up North.”

“This time of year, you people slam on their brakes when they pass our farm,” said Perdue. “They taste so good and they are only available three months out of the year.”

With over 500 different varieties of peaches, you can do just about anything with them.

“Peach smoothies, peach ice cream fuzzy navels,” said Perdue.

The differences in the varieties are color, taste, and even size.

“Georgia Bell’s…those have been around a long time,” said Perdue “But my favorite are the Havens.”

The first clue in making sure you found the perfect peach: ripeness.

“The ripper the peach the better it is,” said Paul Abbott of Abbott Farms.

Pressing on the peach is the best way to tell if it’s ripe or not. The softer it is, the riper it is.  “If you are going to eat it or cook with it that day, you want it to be softer,” said Abbott. “If you are taking it on the road and need a few days, you want it a little firmer.”

The biggest misconception about peaches is that in order to keep them fresh, it’s best to keep them in your refrigerator. But peach farmers say for the best tasting peaches, leave them sitting out on your kitchen counter to ripen, instead.  When the peaches have ripened and softened, then they are perfect for baking, which South Carolinians take very seriously.

Every summer, South Carolina holds a peach dessert contest at their annual Peach Festival and you will see every peach dessert imaginable: from peach cobbler, to peach pizza.

“I made a peach cream cheese delight and it is something no one has gotten the recipe to,” said one contestant.

But for those who can’t make it to the peach dessert contest and want their fare share of fresh Southern peaches, you don’t have to come all the way down South.

“I’ve got friends who grow and will actually take a truck to Ohio and Virginia overnight. So those people are still getting tree ripened peaches from South Carolina,” said Abbott. For the freshest Southern peaches all over the country, look for farmers markets. Or you can find them at the grocery store, but they made need a few extra days to ripen.

“I think anywhere you go, if you don’t love peaches something is wrong with you,” said Suzuki.

Mary Quinn O'Connor is part of the Junior Reporter program at Fox News. Get more information on the Junior Reporters Program here.