Community members hungry to capitalize on an annual summer tradition need wait no longer: California State University, Chico will open University Farm this week for “U-Pick Peaches,” an opportunity for the public to stock up on multiple varieties of delicious, fresh peaches.
This year’s opening day is Thursday, Aug. 9 from 8 a.m. to noon, and the farm will also host picking on Friday and Saturday as supplies last. The University Farm is located at 311 Nicholas C. Schouten Lane off Hegan Lane in Chico.
While the farm will provide buckets for the picked peaches, customers must take fruit home in their own containers. The peaches are priced at $1.50 per pound. The University Farm accepts only cash or checks, and picking is first-come, first-served.
This year, the University Farm will offer three different varieties of peaches available for harvesting, and they ripen in this order:
- Hale: An old variety widely regarded as one of the best; exceptionally large, round, uniform freestone fruit is golden yellow overlaid with carmine; firm, fine-grained, deep yellow finish is free from stringiness and has delicious flavor; good for home canning and fresh use.
- Fay Elberta: Large, yellow skin freestone with little red blush; has fairly good shape and good flavor; flesh is yellow, fine-grained with good firmness; popular canning variety.
- O’Henry: Popular fresh market and multipurpose variety; large freestone fruit with a round to irregular shape; skin color is 75-100 percent red blush; flesh is yellow, streaked with red; superb flavor; it is very firm and stores well.
David Daley, associate dean of the College of Agriculture, reminds the public that the ripening process for peaches can be unpredictable and to be mindful of what they plan to do with them before they pick them.
“It’s good for people to realize this when they pick, whether they’re looking for something to eat right away or need to let them ripen for a few days for canning or freezing,” Daley said.
Additionally, Daley noted that the prolonged period of hot weather has created some unusual conditions, with uneven ripening and, in some cases, “pit scorch,” which is browning around the pit when the peach is opened.
“These peaches are perfectly fine to eat, but we would recommend people use them quickly,” Daley said.
The farm staff ask that customers refrain from picking up or eating any fruit that has already fallen to the ground. Additionally, the staff urges customers to treat the fruit and trees with care and to not pick or squeeze green fruit, as it will cause bruising.
The University Farm set a new sales record for its annual peach-picking event in 2017—selling more than 42,000 pounds of peaches and earning $63,000 to support farm operations. Daley noted that the public is not the only group to benefit.
“This event gives us the opportunity to share the University Farm with a broader audience,” he said. “It’s a great learning experience for our students to interact with the customers who purchase the products they grow.”
For peach-picking updates, the public can call the University Farm’s Peach Hotline at 530-898-4989.