Move over Georgia, Calhoun County in southwestern Illinois is the place to find some of the best peaches in the Midwest. And peach season is now in full swing.
Take a bite into a juicy, sweet Calhoun County peach and find out what visitors throughout the Meeting of the Great Rivers have discovered over the years - these are some of the most flavorful and juicy peaches around.
"Calhoun County peaches are so popular because of their flavor" said Sandy Odelehr, of Odelehr's Roadside Market
in Brussels. "The soil and hilly orchards give our peaches their different and better flavor."
A variety of roadside stands and orchards which sell the much sought after fruit dot the landscape throughout Calhoun County, a peninsula-shaped county bordered by the Mississippi River on the west and the Illinois River on the east. The location of the county between the two rivers creates a micro-climate which is one reason the peach crop has garnered so much attention over the years.
The famous peaches are also available at local farmer's markets including the Alton Artisan and Farmer's Market on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings on Alton's riverfront. Peach season is relatively brief and runs though late August and will stretch to early September.
Odelehr's Roadside Market
is well-known for its peaches, which can be found at thier farm in Belleville, IL or at the farmers market in Edwardsville, IL. Currently, freestone Red Havens are available with freestone Glow Havens and Crest Havens quickly following. Peaches are currently running $20 a peck, a half peck for $12, and a quarter peck for $7 at Odelehr's.
At the popular Eckert's Country Store & Farm
in Grafton, visitors can purchase peaches in the store. The peaches are grown at their Grafton and Belleville locations. Eckert's also offers pick-your-own peaches for a cost of $1.29 per pound for a more personal and rewarding experience. To pick peaches you will need a field access pass which is $1 per person and children under two are free. The all-day field access pass will allow you to enjoy fruit samples and unlimited rides to the picking area. They have over 35 different types of peaches. The big peach that they are harvesting currently is Red Haven peaches. This is a freestone peach that ripens in mid-July and is well known for its sweet and juicy taste. When asked, an employee at Eckert's said, "The crop is great this year, people really love coming to pick their own peaches here because it is fun to do it yourself and see where your food comes from." The Grafton pick-your-own peach hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Just three miles from the Brussels Ferry is the Hagen Family Orchard
. This orchard has plump Red Havens and Early Eight Ball peaches ready for purchase. Eight Ball peaches are semi freestone. They now have peaches coming in steadily and they also offer cold delicious peach ice cream and smooth peach sorbet, perfect for an extra refreshing treat to cool you off on a hot summer day.
"A drive through beautiful Calhoun County is wonderful whatever season it is, but now you can come by for some wonderful summer treats such as tree ripened peaches" the orchard posted on its Facebook page.
Another great way to enjoy the terrific peaches of Calhoun County is to visit the Peach Festival
at Pere Marquette Lodge, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on August 13. This is a great opportunity to sample some delicious peaches as well as take part in activities throughout the day. The Peach Festival features craft vendors, Peach Pit-Pitching, live music, and special activities for kids.
Fun Peach Facts:
A peck is a unit of measurement almost exclusively used for produce. It is equal to 2 dry gallons and 1/4 of a bushel.
Freestone peaches have flesh that comes off of the pit very easily while clingstone peaches have flesh that will be more difficult to get off of the pit.
Ripe peaches can be stored five to seven days in the refrigerator after picking to preserve them.