Do you have Georgia on your mind during peach season? How about Calhoun County instead. This small peninsula county located in southwest Illinois, just minutes from St. Louis, is famous for its tree-ripened peaches. Bite into a juicy peach and you’ll be a believer.
Calhoun County is situated between the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, creating a microclimate that helps peach trees thrive. During the summer, vendors and farmers start to line the roadsides with stands that sell the summer staple.
Peaches are a stone fruit, and there are two main types: clingstone and freestone. As their names suggest, you can more easily remove the pit of a freestone peach than a clingstone peach. This makes freestone peaches ideal for fresh eating.
One of the best peaches for eating, canning and baking are the Red Haven. This delicious variety is harvested mid-July. You can find them and other varieties at most farms and markets, including the Alton Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings on Alton's riverfront. Peach season is relatively brief and runs from July to early September.
Fifth-generation peach farmer Tom Ringhausen grew some of the peaches you will find at the Alton Farmers’ Market. Flood waters damaged his orchard located in Hardin, so he is selling peaches from his stand in Batchtown. Ringhausen Apple House in Jerseyville also has peaches.
Odelehr's Roadside Market is well known for its peaches, which can be found at their farm in Brussels or at the farmers market in Edwardsville, IL. Currently, freestone Red Havens, the most popular peaches planted in the Midwest, are available. You can also find freestone Glo Havens and Crest Havens.
"Calhoun County peaches are so popular because of their flavor," Sandy Odelehr of Odelehr’s Market said. "The soil and hilly orchards give our peaches their different and better flavor."
Also in Brussels, Toppemeyer’s Roadside Market has cling peaches available now and will have freestones at the end of July.
Just three miles from the Brussels Free Ferry, the Hagen Family Orchard is to sell small boxes of peaches this summer. A hailstorm in early June damaged much of the crop; they will not be selling half or whole bushels of peaches. Visit their Facebook page for updates on peach availability.
Visitors of the popular Eckert's Country Store & Farm can purchase tree-ripened peaches from the Grafton and Belleville locations, which double as grow sites. An authentic and hands-on experience, both locations also offer pick-your-own peaches* from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily for $1.49 per pound. Peach-pickers who are two-years and older will need to purchase a field access pass for $1 per person. The all-day field access pass will allow you to enjoy fruit samples and unlimited rides to the picking area. Visit their website for information on selecting, buying and storing your peaches.
Another way to enjoy Calhoun County peaches is to visit the annual Peach Festival at Pere Marquette Lodge. This year’s kid-friendly festival will be held on Sunday, Aug. 11 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is a great opportunity to sample and purchase peaches from growers throughout the region. You can also shop craft vendors, listen to live music, sample wine and eat lunch in the Lodge Restaurant.
What are you waiting for? Get your hands on a Calhoun County peach while you can.
*Pick-your-own peaches are subject to availability. Visit Eckert’s website for availability.
List of Calhoun County Peach Growers and Sellers
Toppemeyer’s Roadside Market