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Ontarians treated to peaches 2 weeks early while BC anticipates big cherry crop

07/19/2012 06:58 EDT | Updated 09/18/2012 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - One good thing has emerged from the heatwave in southern Ontario — consumers are being treated to an early peach crop.

"Ontario peaches are in the stores now and ramping up quickly. Our season is at least two weeks earlier than normal," Sarah Marshall, manager of Ontario Tender Fruit Producers Marketing Board, said Thursday in an email. "This heat has increased harvesting at the front end and has also resulted in a super sweet, juicy crop that will run down your chin."

Projections in the spring said the crop would be 30 per cent smaller than usual due to a warm spell in March, and this is still the case. The trees came out of dormancy too early, which made them vulnerable to frosts.

But Marshall said Ontario producers are "still anticipating a good-sized crop until at least the end of August."

In British Columbia, the harvest of apricots is just beginning, with peaches anticipated in the next couple of weeks and on schedule, Glen Lucas, general manager of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association, said Thursday in an interview from Kelowna, B.C.

"Our blossom setting is quite good, so we'd expect a pretty healthy crop (of peaches) right now. A bit of time before we start harvesting. Lots of things can happen with the weather, as Ontario knows, but at this stage we're looking at a larger-than-normal crop."

While Ontario is just wrapping up its cherry harvest, B.C.'s sweet cherry harvest has been underway for a couple of weeks.

"We're really hitting our stride now in terms of the volume picked every week so it'll be at a peak for the next two or three weeks and then we'll get into late-season cherries, very late-season cherries, and the volume goes down, but that's our really premium market for B.C. cherries," Lucas said, noting that many of the large, firm, almost crunchy late-season cherries are exported to Asia, Europe and the U.S.

"Now Washington state cherry production has really expanded ... but we can produce later than them in the season and that's the sweet spot, to be the last person in the Northern Hemisphere with cherries. That's kind of the ideal spot and that's where we are."

The B.C. cherry crop has been expanding in terms of acreage and production in the last 10 years, and new varieties have extended the season until late August from July, he said.

In Ontario, there are still some yellow plums in stores. Blue plums and nectarines usually come onto the market in August, but the heat might also push those crops earlier, Joan Fraser, public relations specialist for Foodland Ontario, said Thursday from Guelph, Ont.

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