August is National Peach Month, the time of year when we all look forward to biting into a sweet juicy peach or enjoying a peach pie at a summer picnic. But this year’s crop may be limited due to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Labour Shortages Impact Fruit Picking

According to a report published by the University of Calgary’s Simpson Centre for Agricultural and Food Innovation and Public Education, in 2019, approximately 64,000 temporary foreign workers arrived in Canada to work in agriculture. The report concludes that in 2020, mainly due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, there will be 8,960 fewer temporary foreign workers arriving in Canada to assist in agriculture. This lack of foreign workers will impact fruit picking.

Fruit growers across the country are also experiencing a decrease in the number of Canadians travelling from other provinces to work seasonally on their farms. According to an article in The Grower, 1,500 backpackers usually travel from Quebec to British Columbia each year to harvest fruit. This number has significantly reduced this year due to COVID-19.

In response to these labour shortages, British Columbia fruit growers are trying to attract more local workers. The Grower reports that the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture has launched a new web portal to try to attract more local workers. Hiring more local workers will help to reduce the amount of food waste this season.

A shortage of labour means that peach farmers may have to reduce the scale of their peach-picking this year. This means that during National Peach Month, they may harvest less peaches resulting in reduced farm revenues and less money to support their families.

 

Support Canadian Peach Farmers

If you are looking for work, you can support Canadian peach farmers by working as a temporary seasonal farmworker. You can also help farmers by buying peaches and other fruit from fruit stands, farmers’ markets, directly from the producers themselves or at local supermarkets.

In honour of National Peach Month and to celebrate the efforts of Canadian peach farmers, keep reading to learn more about peaches including: their origins, fun facts, types of peaches and ways to enjoy them.

 

The Origins of the Peach

An article entitled The History of the Peach on the Kingsburg Orchards website describes the origins of the peach. “[P]eaches originated in China. From China, this delectable fruit spread to Persia, where it was widely cultivated. Alexander the Great furthered its spread into Europe[.] In the 16th century, Spanish explorers brought it to the Americas and in the 17th century it was introduced to England and France. Peaches were planted all along the East Coast of the United States by the 18th century.”

The Canadian Encyclopedia suggests that peaches began appearing in Ontario during the 1880s and then spread to British Columbia by the 1890s.     

Fun Facts about Peaches:

  • In 2016, Canadian farmers harvested over 2,567 hectares (6,343 acres) of peaches, according to an Agriculture and Agri-food Canada report. That is the size of 4,796 football fields!
  • Peach trees grow to a height of three to five meters tall.[1]
  • A peach tree has a lifespan of 10-20 years; they begin to bear fruit after two to three years.[2]
  • Ontario produces over 82 per cent of Canada’s peaches states ca.
  • Approximately 600 peach growers in British Columbia produce the remaining 18 per cent, roughly 5.2 million kilograms of peaches each year, according to the British Columbia Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation’s “Grow B.C.” program.

Types of Peaches

All peaches can be divided into three main categories: Clingstone, Freestone and Semi-freestone. Peaches are categorized based upon how easily the pit clings to the fruit’s flesh.

  • Freestone: According to The Kitchn food magazine’s The Best Peach to Buy for Every Occasion article, “Freestone peaches are those gems you bite or cut into and the pit falls right out. They can be yellow or white, and are the variety that’s most commonly sold at grocery stores and farmers markets. If you’re making a peach dessert that requires pitting a lot of fruit, like a piecobbler, or crumble, this variety feels like a godsend for how easy it is to remove the pit. They’re also ideal for baking since they’re typically a bit larger and less juicy than their clingstone counterparts.”
  • Clingstone: The pit clings tightly to the flesh. Clingstone peaches are juicier and sweeter than Freestone so they are a good choice for canning and preserving. Since supermarkets tend to stock Freestone peaches, they may be easiest to find at a farmers’ market.
  • Semi-freestone: A hybrid, all-purpose peach good for eating, baking and canning.

Ways to Enjoy Peaches

Peaches are popular because they are so versatile. They can be enjoyed raw, grilled, sautéed or baked, or be canned for storage.

When you think of cooking with peaches, you may think of desserts like peach cobbler or peach pie. The sweet and savoury favour of peaches make them complementary to many other food combinations. The Food Network’s 50 Sweet and Savoury Peach Recipes for Summer suggests peaches can be tossed in a salad, added to pancakes, baked in a dishes ranging from peach chutney to peach whiskey chicken, or pureed in a spiced peach punch.

Celebrate National Peach Month. Pick up some sweet, juicy summer peaches at a farmers’ market, roadside stand or supermarket today.

 

[1] The Canadian Encyclopedia, https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/peach

[2] Ibid