Orchards across Fredericksburg and Gillespie County are some of the top producers in Texas for the sweetest and juiciest peaches in the United States.
“During the summer, nothing is better than grabbing a tree-ripe peach still warm from the Texas heat and letting that juice run down your arm as your tastebuds come alive,” said Katelyn Duecker, a third generation peach grower at Burg’s Corner, a Gillespie County orchard that has been open since 1951. “The easiest way to draw someone to Gillespie County is to give them a slice of the sweet, juicy peach and the rest is history.”
Most growers started out with humble beginnings, opening in the early 1950s. Peanuts were the common crop at the time but factors like drought didn’t make growing peanuts economically sustainable. Many growers began replacing peanuts with peaches and found that the change paid dividends after just a single year. The soil in Gillespie County provides nutrients that many believe are the key to making the peaches sweeter and more flavorful.
“The sandy-loam soil with a limestone underbed is full of nutrients that we think make our peaches a little bit sweeter and more flavorful,” Duecker said. “Gillespie County is in an area of Texas that is very conducive to growing peaches - including cold winters and nice hot summers.”
The peach season typically runs mid-May through mid-August, depending on the number of chill hours received during the winter months. Most varieties need over 500 hours of chill-time, when the temperature stays between 32-45 degrees. Each year, growers hope and pray that they receive enough chill time to begin blossoming in the spring but also that the crops don’t receive too many chill hours or even worse – hail or a late freeze.
Peaches are also an economic driver in the community, providing more than 100 jobs and bringing in income for businesses in town through overnight stays, restaurant diners, and fuel sales.
“Thousands of kids worked and still work at the peach stands each summer,” Duecker said. “At one point, our former manager had the entire football team on the packing line, grading peaches.”
The tradition of the road-side market has led to the sharing of tasty treats that feature peaches such as peach pies and cobblers, jams and jellies, ice cream and more. Those homemade sweets are just part of the many ways to enjoy peaches in the Texas Hill Country.
“Sharing our passion is easy - it gives us the chance to have one-of-a-kind interactions with people every day,” Duecker said. “We share peach slices and stories. People ask us for advice on how to grow their own trees, how to put-up peaches and tips on making cobblers and pies.”
Duecker and other area growers love when customers return to their stands year after year.
“The people that come year after year become friends and some even family,” she said. “Getting to know these people and hear their stories is so special. The long, hot, stressful days are always worth it when we build relationships with people. People have such positive memories associated with the fruit. It’s an experience.”
Most stands carry over 20 different varieties of peaches throughout the season, and are either freestone, semi-freestone or cling. Freestone means the flesh of the fruit is easily separated from the pit, whereas a semi-freestone means the flesh kind of clings to the pit and clingstones ripen early and the whole flesh clings. All three can be used for cooking and baking.
The sweet fruit is found weekly at the Fredericksburg Farmer’s Market, held through mid-August at Marktplatz.
Gillespie County peaches can also be found in many culinary spots in Fredericksburg and may find their way onto your plate. In recent years, Spoetzel Brewery, the producer of Shiner Beer, has made their summer beer - Hill Country Peach Wheat - using peaches grown in Gillespie County.
Texas Wine Country also delivers its own way to enjoy the flavor of the sweet summertime fruit with peach wine options at Fat Ass Ranch & Winery and Fiesta Winery, plus Dietz Distillery is now offering Peach Eau de Vie - a dry spirit with bright peach and almond notes.
Interested in picking your own? Jenschke Orchards is the only orchard in the area that offers a pick-your-own option. Quantities of pick-your-own varieties are limited, so it is best to plan and reserve a time for your one-of-kind Texas Hill Country picking experience.
Can’t make it to Fredericksburg? Burg’s Corner and Vogel Orchard ship peaches, but availability and cost vary.
There are also several events during the peach season honoring the fruit - including the Stonewall Peach JAMboree, an event that has been held for over 60 years. The event celebrates the peach crop and includes peach judging, the crowing of the Peach Queen, a parade, peach eating and a rodeo.
Peaches aren’t the only great outdoor activities in Fredericksburg. The rolling hills, colorful wildflowers and winding country roads make for the perfect outdoor adventure. There is hiking and rock climbing at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, hiking trails at Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park and Cross Mountain Park, bicycling, horseback riding and more.
Visiting Fredericksburg midweek provides several perks, including the best values on lodging, less waits at restaurants, relaxed pace for shopping and a more personalized experience picking peaches or tasting Texas wines.