Fresh, ripe Jersey peaches should be arriving in markets this week, since the middle of July typically kicks off high season for the slightly fuzzy, juicy fruit. Ranked fourth in the country in terms of production, Jersey peaches are just about as valuable to the Garden State as the Jersey tomato ($31.2 million vs. $32.4 million) and almost equivalent to the much more famous Georgia peach ($31.4 million), which is ranked third after California and South Carolina.
New Jersey’s peaches are all picked by hand and are sold to fresh markets rather than processed.
Peaches have been cultivated in New Jersey since the 1600s, having originated in China and been brought to the Americas via the Spanish. Initially, they were grown in Cumberland County but soon spread north, becoming famous to New Yorkers, with Hunterdon County as the center. The peak of the peach industry was about 1890, when there were 4.4 million peach trees in the state. In 1920, the number had dropped to 1.9 million.