Just south of Plainville and north of Washington in southern/central Indiana, you would find 20 acres of orchard situated on high sand hills and growing 2000 trees, better known as Pete’s Peaches. Pete Slowik purchased the property and started his orchard in 1988 after growing up in central Indiana and spending years in agricultural sales, selling to fruit growers around the area. He knew those high sand hills were ideal for stone fruits that like good drainage, but he didn’t really know much about growing peaches. He learned the hard way – through reading and studying and through trial and error. Now he has a family business he is rightly proud of.
With 25 varieties of peaches, 3 of nectarines, and 5 of sweet cherries, Pete and his wife Kathy and daughters Brooke and Connie are kept mighty busy. “Growing good peaches is labor intensive,” Pete told me. When he started back in ’88, there weren’t many stone fruit orchards around and the few that existed were older growers ready to retire from the business. Pete explained, “It takes more time and effort to do detailed pruning and fertility to see a quality crop with good size and color come to market. We pick a higher percentage of 2-day ripe fruit. There may be a bruise or dent occasionally, but there is way more flavor!”
In Indiana and the Midwest, peaches are in season from mid-June to mid-August. They progress from early (the first 3 weeks or so) cling peaches, to mid (the next 3 weeks or so) semi-freestone, to late (the last 4 weeks or so) freestone fruit. Pete says they have about a 60-day season give or take a week or two depending on conditions. Some years they may have no crop at all in Indiana if they get frozen out. Out of the last 20 years they have lost their season to freeze only twice. Pete says they have been lucky. “When you see ripe peaches at the market, you should buy them like you may never see them again,” he said. “The next five years might be frozen out!”
Local peaches, picked just before they are fully ripe, are the most delicious and flavorful you can get. “Some people don’t think they like peaches because they’ve gotten them at the supermarket where they were picked green and shipped across the country,” explained Pete. Wholesale growers breed their trees for color and to withstand shipping and then pick them before they are ripe so they will get to the store shelf looking pretty, but they tend to be hard and tasteless. “I’d rather have a peach that tastes good,” Pete says. And I agree!