Ohio's peach and apple crops have bounced back from last year's spring frosts and months of drought.

Ohio's peach and apple crops have bounced back from last year's spring frosts and months of drought.

The state's two commercial tree-fruit crops might even top their five-year annual averages, said Bill Dodd, president of the Ohio Fruit Growers Marketing Association.

"All in all, a lot of apple growers would be pleased to have a crop like this every year," said Dodd, who owns Hillcrest Orchards in Amherst in northeastern Ohio.

That goes for peach growers, too.

Despite three weeks of rain in mid-summer, "It's dried out, and things are going pretty good," said Marshall Branstool, owner of Branstool Orchards in Utica, which grows 26 varieties of peaches. "The peaches taste better than I expected, given the rain."

Branstool is selling a peck of peaches for $16, a half-peck for $9 and a quarter-peck for $5, said Mallory Branstool, the grower's niece.

Peach growers were spoiled by three dry summers in a row, Branstool said. "Those peaches had an outstanding taste."

Branstool's peach harvest likely will last two or three weeks longer, and the apple harvest already has begun. Branstool also expects to pick his small crop of Bartlett and Red Bartlett pears this week. "They'll be available in about a week to 10 days," he said. "We pick them and then put them into cold storage to soften up a bit."

Last year's apple crop was halved in Ohio by an earlier-than-usual spring followed by late-spring frosts that killed many blossoms. A summer drought made things worse.

"This year's crop is much, much, much, much better than last year," Dodd said. "Last year was a little bit of a struggle."

Consumers might notice that this year's apple harvests are back on schedule. Last year, they were about 10 days early, he said.

Because of ample supply, apple prices might be lower this year, he said. Ohio growers have been known to produce more than 100 million pounds of apples in one season.

Branstool is selling apples for $12 a peck and $7 a half-peck, Mallory Branstool said.

"Honeycrisp is getting close," Branstool said. The crisp, sweet apples developed at the University of Minnesota and released in 1991 have quickly become a consumer favorite. "People have been asking for that for like six weeks," he said.

In Ohio, the supply of Honeycrisp apples still falls short of demand, Dodd said. "People have been planting them. As the years go by, we will meet demand."

Virgil Hatch is just beginning his fall apple harvest at Legend Hills Orchard, also in Utica.

Hatch and his father-in-law, Dick Hoar, who owns the orchard, are selling pick-your-own apples for $10 a half-bushel, and $17 a half bushel for Honeycrisps, which they already are picking.

Legend Hills also is selling picked apples for $7.50 a peck at the country store at the orchard. Picked peaches are $14.90 a peck, or you can pick the last of the peaches yourself, for $22 a half-bushel, Hatch said.

"We had a real good yield of peaches this year," he said. "And it looks like a bumper apple crop."




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