Texas Living

Growing Up at a Texas Peach Orchard

By Susannah Hutcheson 5.27.19

Nothing says a Texas summer like the first bite of a peach, when the fuzz sticks to your fingers and juice dribbles down your chin. If you’re like me, there’s no summer without peaches. From the moment I began work at a peach orchard when I was 16, peaches became the backbone of my summers.

Photo by Natalie Goff

Summers at the Peach Orchard

Back in the days when I drove a 1999 Ford Explorer named Patsy who blew black smoke every time she went over 45 miles an hour, I would pull into the gravel drive in my green uniform polo and get to work at the orchard.

While everyone else was working drive-through lanes and foaming latte milk, I spent my days crafting the perfect peach ice-cream cones, wandering through rows and rows of peach trees, telling people all about the merits of local honey, and watching children come in from outside soaked in blackberry juice, sun, and new freckles. My summers smelled like peaches, dirt, and sugar.

Photo by Natalie Goff

A Community of Peach Pickers

There’s something both kitschy and wholesome about working at a peach orchard, and over the years I saw it all: the buses of senior citizens who would come in with a hankering for sugar and leave with baskets of jams and jellies; the staff who would come in at 5 a.m. to roll out homemade butter pie crusts and bake homemade loaves of peach-pecan bread.

I watched as the men and women who picked peaches in the orchard came to the store with truckloads of stone fruit they had picked with their bare hands, tanned and calloused from hours among the trees, and I saw babies turn into toddlers and then into big brothers and sisters, coming back to the orchard every summer — 10 pounds bigger and a couple of inches taller — for a cone of ice cream and a piece of homemade fudge.

Photo by Natalie Goff

Growing Up With the Seasons

I grew up too. While those 10,000 peach trees produced fruit and blew in the wind and caught rainstorms and shook off their leaves, I high-kicked at halftime, went on awkward dates, snuck out, graduated high school and went to college, failed chemistry, made friends and lost them. Every summer, the peach orchard was still there, just over the railroad tracks, waiting for another three months of lessons and peaches.

Photo by Natalie Goff

Peach Destinations

Enjoy a taste of summer with hand-picked fruit from these orchards.

Ham Orchards, Terrell
Since 1979, Ham Orchards has grown from a truck-bed operation to more than 10,000 peach trees, a farmers-market store, a barbecue pavilion, and a pick-your-own blackberry patch. Swing by from May to August for a cone of their famous homemade peach ice cream, a peach pulled-pork sandwich, and a grocery bag full of baked goods.

Cooper Farms, Fairfield
Located just off of Interstate 45, Cooper Farms has been the perfect stop since 1983 for homemade peach ice cream, root beer, taffy, and, of course, peaches.

Photo by Natalie Goff

Vogel Orchard, Fredericksburg
In the heart of Hill Country, Vogel Orchard has been selling peaches since 1953. Stop in for a jar of homemade peach preserves and peach butter, and don’t leave without a peck of sweet stone fruit.

Donald Eckhardt Orchards, Fredericksburg
Family-owned and -operated since 1936, Donald Eckhardt Orchards sells delicious, tree-ripe peaches from a roadside stand in Fredericksburg.

For more homegrown goodies, check out these new potato recipes and melon inspiration.

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