The LSU AgCenter has released three new peach varieties, which will be available commercially in the fall of 2001. Their names match their characteristics somewhat, says Charlie Johnson, horticulture researcher and developer of the varieties. LaSweet is low-acid and very sweet. LaRouge has a bright red skin. And LaBelle is a late-season peach that will extend Louisiana’s fresh peach season into mid-July.Johnson calls the white-fleshed LaSweet, which should ripen the first week in June, an exotic variety. Because it is low-acid, it almost doesn’t taste like a peach. The sugar to acid ratio is 75 to 1, compared to 20 to 1 for most peaches.“It will be in demand because it’s very aromatic and flavorful,” Johnson said. “It’s firmer than most low-acid peaches but it’s still hard to handle for packing and shipping because it bruises easily.”LaRouge’s red color will show up well in the marketplace. It will ripen about the first of July so will most likely be promoted as a Fourth of July peach.“The flesh is yellow, and the peach is very firm. It will hold up well for picking and packing,” Johnson said.LaBelle, pictured in the photo above, should ripen about July 8-10 so will help fill a gap between two popular Louisiana peaches, also recommended by the LSU AgCenter, LaFeliciana and Dixiland.The LSU AgCenter has not released any new peach varieties since 1992, when Gala, Delta and Glory became available.Developing a new peach variety takes on average 13 years, Johnson said. The LSU AgCenter started releasing new varieties in 1969 with LaPremier.“LaPremier is still widely grown,” Johnson said. “Peach varieties stay around for a long time.”LaSweet, LaRouge and LaBelle are Nos. 22-24 as the list keeps growing.Johnson says the next releases should be in the next two or three years. Waiting in the wings are some more exotic, white-fleshed varieties.“The trend is the development of varieties that can be aimed more at niche markets,” Johnson said.Louisiana’s peach industry has not fared well the last few years with mild winters and surprise freezes during the spring.“Peaches do best when the winters are cold – but when spring comes, it stays warm,” Johnson said. The three new varieties are best grown in Louisiana’s mid region, which includes the Baton Rouge through Alexandria area.
Linda Foster Benedict
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