Niagara county orchards’ superlative stone fruits
Why are Niagara peaches—and everything grown there—so good?
CHERRIES AND PEACH PHOTOS BY ERIC FRICK
There’s a reason the largest festival in Lewiston’s festival-packed summer is founded on a fruit. Now a three-day event that boasts a parade, midway, games, music, and fried everything, the Niagara County Peach Festival (September 5-8) started 62 years ago as a way to celebrate the quality and abundance of the juicy stone fruit. Why are Niagara peaches—and everything grown there—so good? The region used to be hundreds of feet under water. As Lake Ontario receded, it left behind a deep layer of nutrient-rich soil, a perfect fruit-growing medium.
Niagara is first among counties in the state in sweet cherries and second in tart cherries, the juice of which is valued for its myriad health benefits. You can find local cherries at markets or pick your own from the beginning of July to early August.
There’s nothing better than biting into a ripe, juicy free-stone peach fresh from a roadside stand. Peak season is late July through mid-September. Niagara County has the most peach acerage in New York state, so there are plenty of orchards to chose from.
With the scourge of Plum Pox on the decline, a larger variety of stone fruits are being planted. Look for Japanese varities like Early Golden, Shiro, and Obilinaya early in the season and European “prune” plums from August to mid-October.