What we call Georgia peaches were originally cultivated in mainland China and bought to the marshes of southern Florida by Franciscan monks. It was not until decades after the Civil War that the state of Georgia earned the moniker “The Peach State.” There are 44 different varieties of peaches grown in the state. Georgia peaches begin to ripen in May and early June and are ready for picking in July.
When determining if a Georgia peach is ripe turn the peach over and look for a yellow backside not exposed to sunlight. When a Georgia peach ripens, the exposed skin will no longer have the green tinted skin. The fruit's skin tone will change into an orange pink hue. As the peach ripens its body will feel slightly hard, but still soft to the touch.
Georgia peaches grow in relation to conditions in the atmosphere during the final weeks of ripening. The water and sugar content in a Georgia peach also affects the growth of ripened peaches. A peach will become round as it ripens.
When a Georgia peach is ripe it will have a sweet fruity, slightly acidic taste. Peaches picked later in season generally have a higher sugar content. Some varieties of Georgia peaches seem to lack juiciness. University of Georgia scientists attribute this to oxidation and internal browning during storage and shipping.
There are close to four dozen varieties of Georgia peaches. Empress peaches are good for baking pies and pastries. Clingstone and freestone peaches are excellent for canning and fruit salads, and are named for the seed and meat of the fruit. Clingstone peach meat does not fall off the pit, but freestone peach meat falls easily off the pit.