Commercial horticulture professionals with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System are cautiously optimistic about the fruit crop for this year.
The last hard freeze had the potential to cause a number of problems, says Bobby Boozer, an area Extension fruit horticulturist. “It could have been very bad, but it appears most of our fruit producers dodged a bullet,” says Boozer. “My overall feeling for fruit crops is that the freeze did not significantly reduce their potential.”
He notes, that for some producers, the late freeze may have been beneficial.
“It may have acted as a natural thinning process. Fruit trees cannot support all the fruit they may set, and often growers have to thin the crop themselves.”
Boozer says while Alabama is perhaps best known for its peaches, there are many different fruits grown across the state.
“That’s something a lot of folks don’t realize,” he says. “During the summer months, we have a diverse variety of fruits available from Alabama producers.”
Strawberry harvest is under way across the state. While regional Extension commercial horticulture agents report some damage to strawberry fields, pick-your-own operations are open from the Gulf Coast to Chilton County.
In addition to peaches, other tree fruits, such as apples, plums and pears, are grown.
Boozer points out that the bounty doesn’t stop there.
“Blueberries are a growing venture in Alabama.” The state currently ranks 12th nationally in blueberry production.
He suggests consumers check farmers’ markets that feature locally grown produce as well as the state’s many pick-your-own operations to reap the most bounty from the state’s fruit producers.
“Start with strawberries in spring. Then you will be able to find blueberries, peaches, plums, blackberries and muscadines during the summer.”
He adds that Alabama-grown watermelons and cantaloupes will be available in the summer as well.
“Later in the year, people will be able to enjoy both the apple and pecan harvests.”
Boozer notes that people who enjoy citrus fruit can find Alabama-grown satsumas in the late fall.