Peaches have long been a Georgia trademark and are the state's official fruit.
Franciscan monks first introduced peaches to St. Simons and Cumberland islands along Georgia's coast in 1571. They became widely cultivated in Georgia during the colonial period of the 1700s.
After the Civil War, Georgia growers developed several hardy peach varieties. The new varieties boosted the commercial peach industry and made Georgia the "Peach State."
The first peaches grown in Georgia were the Elberta variety. Its creator, Samuel H. Rumph, is credited with being the father of the Georgia Peach Industry. In the late 1800s, the Elberta was highly successful on the northern markets because of its exceptional color, size and quality.
In addition to the good ol' Elberta, Georgia now produces more than 40 commercial varieties of peaches which are divided into two general categories: freestone and clingstone. The fruit of the freestone peach readily breaks away from the stone or pit, while the clingstone adheres to the pit.
Fresh Georgia peaches are available only 16 weeks each year, from mid-May to mid-August.
Georgia has two commercial peach-growing regions. The central region is the largest with about 1.6 million peach trees and 75 percent of the state's production. The southern region produces about 30 million pounds of peaches annually.
Although Georgia is called the Peach State, it actually ranked fourth in United States peach production in 2008. California and South Carolina are the national leaders.
Each year, Georgia produces over 130 million pounds of peaches. In 2008, the Georgia peach crop totaled 25 thousand tons.