Blushing from thickly leaved trees at the height of Georgia summer, these peaches are the belle of the ball. Lewis A. Rumph bred the aptly name Belle of Georgia in 1870, after the dreaded boll weevil eviscerated Georgia’s staple cotton crops, leaving a wide-open market for other farm products. Upon its debut, the peach variety won fans for its firm, red-veined white flesh, juiciness, and sweet, fragrant flavor. It quickly became the most popular commercial peach in the late 19th century.
Enter industrial agriculture. By the early 1900s, the Georgia Belle was grown throughout Georgia, Texas, California, and Florida. But as the 20th century wore on, commercial growers shunted the heirloom aside in favor of peach varieties dubbed easier for distribution. As far as flavor, those mealy, bland peaches fell far short of the Belle.
But efficiency defeated deliciousness. Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Belle of Georgia in supermarkets and even commercial farmer stands. But the variety continues to be a backyard favorite, particularly in its home state, where late summer brings a signature blush to the Belle’s fuzzy flesh. The bounty falling from backyard trees overflows into peaches canned to store some sweetness for winter, and peach cobbler bubbling out of the oven, to be enjoyed right now. This variety isn’t available at grocery stores, so your best best is to grow your own—or make friends with the sweet Georgia peach in your life and hope they share.