When the freeze came in late March, Montague County grower John Doak saw almost his entire peach crop wiped out.The late March freeze and frost hit peach growers across the state hard this year, leaving the staple of Texas summers harder to find.Last week, Doak, 86, was at his usual spot at the Cowtown Farmers Market in Fort Worth, selling peaches to his loyal customers but they wont be around for long.Depending on the weather, his meager crop might be finished sometime this week.We dont have much left on the trees, Doak said.A grower in Parker County joked that peaches are so scarce this year that they should be sold piecemeal to the highest bidder.We should just section them off into eight pieces and have an auction, said Jean OBannon, who grows and sells peaches with her husband, Johnny, in Greenwood, just west of Weatherford. The Texas Hill Country, one of the most popular peach growing regions of the state, saw similar devastation from the cold weather in March. Peach growers also saw losses from spring hail storms.While there are still a few peaches out there, its going to be a total loss for a lot of growers this year, said Jim Kamas, a Texas Agrilife Extension Horticulturist in Fredericksburg.But if you know where to look, peaches can still be found.Parker County grower Jimmy Hutton said peach lovers have to be ready to pounce.Dont go comparison shopping or think you can get them the next day you better get them while you can, said Hutton, whose family is one of largest peach growers in Parker County.East Texas peaches more plentifulThe Huttons own the Ridgmar Farmers Market store in Fort Worth, where East Texas peaches were available last week. Cooper Farms in Fairfield and McPeak Orchards near Pittsburgh have shipped peaches to grocery stores like Central Market, Whole Foods and Brookshires.We had wind machines that saved about 50 percent of crop, said Kathy Cooper of Cooper Farms. Where we didnt have them, we pretty much lost everything.The cool spring pushed back the growing season, and peaches are also a little smaller than usual. But Cooper said the season will run a little later this year.Well probably have them until the end of August, Cooper said.Think about trying blackberriesThis years Parker County Peach Festival, which takes place July 13 in Weatherford, will still have many of the peach-related items patrons expect it just wont have a lot of Parker County peaches.Well have peach cobbler, peach ice cream, peach juleps all of the specialty items that people love, said Jennifer Williams, executive assistant at the Weatherford Charmber of Commerce.As for peaches, Williams said, They are missed but people understand the situation.Kamas, the Texas Agrilife horticulturist, said peach lovers should try some of the other Texas fruits that survived the cold weather. Grapes, pears and blackberries came through spring in much better shape.People ought to think about trying blackberries, Kamas said. Theyre worth sampling this year.
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698 Twitter: @fwhanna