PITTSBURG — ‘Tis the season for peaches.
The fruit that can be eaten raw or turned into pies, cobblers, jams and more is tasty enough to motivate people to make two-hour or longer drives to orchards and stores along U.S. 271 in Pittsburg.
The peach season in Northeast Texas lasts from mid-May to the first week in September, said Brantly Efurd, a third-generation member of a family that started Efurd Orchards in 1972 in Pittsburg.
Efurd said the family grows 27 varieties of peaches, but added the Loring and red skin varieties are the most popular.
“They are just two old varieties,” he said. “People know them.”
Efurd was working Saturday at the family’s store where customers can buy peaches, onions and sweet potatoes that his family raises, along with other produce and merchandise.
The store draws a majority of its visitors from the Longview and Tyler areas, while others come from Paris, Texarkana and Dallas, Efurd said.
Customers packed the store Saturday to buy boxes of peaches and other fresh fruits and vegetables and taste peach and other flavors of homemade ice cream. And, in some cases, they made it a family outing.
John Holcomb of Dallas came with his wife, Megan, daughter, Avery, 1, and parents, Hal and Elizabeth.
The family arrived Friday night and booked hotel rooms in Pittsburg for two nights.
Holcomb said he visits the Efurd store once a year, but his mother corrected him.
“We come here more frequently,” Elizabeth Holcomb said.
John Holcomb said peaches are the big draw, adding he also planned to buy jam, okra and green beans.
The peaches also drew Sandra Maroon of Texarkana, Arkansas.
“They are sweet and juicy,” Maroon said. “You can tell by the skin tone if they are ripe and juicy, and you can tell by the feel. If they are not ripe, you can set them out for a day or two.”
Maroon said she visits the Efurd store four or five times during the summer and has been doing so for about five years.
“I eat them raw,” Maroon said. “I make pies, and I take some pies to work, and my parents come with me a lot of times,” she said, referring to Billy and Louise Maroon of Murfreesboro, Arkansas.
Maroon said she usually buys a box of peaches.
“I’ll put some in the freezer to eat in the wintertime, and I’ll make some jam,” she said.
Unlike the Maroons and Holcombs, Matt Gustafson of Longview was visiting the store for the first time. He arrived with Raquel – his wife of seven months – and his parents, Jim and Danyce, also of Longview.
“We like eating a lot of fresh produce,” Gustafson said. “I’ve never had peach ice cream before. This is really good.”
His wife said she planned to buy a box of peaches
“We will probably eat about half of them and freeze the rest,” said Raquel Gustafson. She added she likes to use peaches to make smoothies and might make jam, as well.
Matt Gustafson said he had not planned to return for another year but changed his mind after he learned Saturday that the store will carry the Loring variety of peaches in a few weeks.
Some customers at Efurd also visited the McPeak Orchards store a few miles to the south.
Caylee Young of De Queen, Arkansas, was visiting her mother, Debbie Jefferson of Gilmer, while dropping by the McPeak Orchards store for the firs time.
“I’ve never been in here before, but they’ve got some good stuff, too,” Young said. She said she eats peaches plain, while her grandmother freezes them to make cobblers.
A visit to the McPeak Orchards store was not on the original itinerary for the family of Carlos and Katharine Cardona, who drove to Pittsburg from their Longview home to pick up a puppy for their three children.
They were not disappointed.
Carlos Cardona said his children wanted to pick blackberries, and his family could “just enjoy the calm atmosphere away from the chaos in Longview.”