Gulfprince, a new peach variety that can tree-ripen for several extra days, thus becoming sweeter and juicier, is now available to consumers.

The new variety, released to growers in 1999, was developed by the Agricultural Research Service, the University of Georgia and the University of Florida. It was planted in grower orchards in 2001.

Thomas Beckman, a horticulturist at the ARS Fruit and Tree Nut Research Laboratory in Byron, Ga., was part of the ARS-university team that developed the new peach. Gulfprince possesses several qualities that make it appealing to various market sectors.

The new peach is a “non-melting” variety, meaning it can remain on the tree three to four days longer than a traditional “melting” peach variety. Whether a peach is melting or non-melting comes down to a difference in one gene that enables the fruit to stay firmer longer. The additional time on the tree allows the fruit to accumulate more sugar, attain more juiciness and become more fragrant.

Consumers will also like Gulfprince's size and color. More than 2.5 inches in diameter, it is red with a deep-yellow skin color, an attractive combination that consumers seem to prefer. The non-melting peach also improves handling capacity because it's slow to soften and doesn't bruise easily.

Beckman and his colleagues continue to work on developing additional varieties that ripen at different times, thus extending the peach season.

ARS is the United States Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.