While Georgia’s official nickname is The Peach State and they have named this succulent delicacy, featured on their state quarter, as their official state fruit, we here in the Lone Star State will put our peaches up against anyone’s.
In Texas, there are several areas known for their peaches such as the Hill Country towns of Fredericksburg and Stonewall, in southern Gillespie County north of San Antonio and west of Austin. Then you have Freestone County, east of Waco and between Houston and Dallas along I-45. However, I believe (mainly because I live here) that Parker County, which is just west of the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex, truly has the best peaches in Texas.
Backed up by the 72nd Legislature’s Regular Session in 1991, House Resolution 203 officially recognized Parker County as the Peach Capital of Texas. So, I think I’m safe to say that if you want to experience the best peaches our state has to offer, then you need to plan a trip to Parker County.
And to experience all things peaches, visit the Parker County Peach Festival which is held each year on the second Saturday of July in Weatherford’s historic downtown. The family-friendly festival features the Peach Pedal Bike Ride; over 200 arts, crafts, food and activity booths; live music; and a 42 domino tournament.
How did this magnificent fruit get its start in Parker County? It began in the early 20th century when the county’s economic basis was dominated by the three c’s of agriculture – corn, cotton and cattle. As a means of diversification, farmers began planting other crops and by 1910, it was estimated that there were close to 144,000 trees in the county, most of them peach. Due to the rich, well-drained, sandy loam soil in the Western Cross Timbers part of the county, it proved to be a perfect environment for the cultivation of the luscious fruit. While both the freestone and cling peaches thrive in the area, there are numerous varieties that span the entire harvesting season which generally runs from May to late August/early September.
One of the most prominent peach farms in Parker County traces its history back to 1938 where J.K. Johnson, Sr. planted the first peach tree in his orchard six miles west of Weatherford. His son, J.K. Johnson, Jr. continued the family tradition as he and his wife Esther Mae, eventually had over 3,000 trees on a 65-acre orchard.
Mr. Johnson, along with the County Extension agents and other local Parker County growers, were a driving force in establishing Parker County’s peach heritage and then maintaining that reputation for many years. They discovered that pruning the trees into the shape of a bowl makes for better peach production and created a wooden harvesting box to prevent the bruising you get when dropping and transporting newly picked peaches in a burlap sack. Ladonna Stockstill, daughter of Mrs. J.K. Johnson, graciously shared her mother’s peach cobbler recipe (see below).
Mr. Johnson eventually sold his orchard to Charles and Lafreita Hutton of Hutton Peach Farms who still grow, pick, and sell what I think are the best peaches in Parker County from their orchards containing well over 4,000 trees.
Every year, my wife Lynn and I make sure we bring home a bushel or two from the Hutton’s stand west of Weatherford on Highway 180 at Greenwood Cut Off Road and feast on the juicy goodness of fresh-picked peaches. Plus, I’m lucky that Lynn makes what I think is the best peach cobbler in the world.
Photo Left: Author Jim Causey dreams of the peach cobbler to come from these Parker County peaches. Photo courtesy of Jim Causey
No matter if you simply bite into a juicy globe on a hot summer day, enjoy a few golden slices of goodness with ice cream or try a new cobbler recipe, be sure to explore and enjoy all that Parker County has to offer. From its bountiful peach harvests and rich heritage, it truly is “The Peach Capital of Texas.”
Esther Mae Johnson’s Peach Cobbler
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 cup flour
Dash of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 to 1½ quarts peeled and sliced peaches
2 tablespoons butter
Cinnamon and sugar to sprinkle on top
Heat peaches and butter. Then check and adjust the sugar to taste as the amount of sugar can vary based on the sweetness and ripeness of the peaches. Combine sugar, flour, milk, salt and baking powder. Place mixture into a 13×9 inch baking dish.
Pour hot peaches over mixture to make the crust rise. Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over cobbler before baking.
Bake at 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes. Bake until peach juices bubble and crust turns a light golden color.
Weatherford Chamber of Commerce
Hutton Peach Farm
210 Greenwood Cut Off Rd
Weatherford, TX 76088
Parker County Peach festival – 2022
Historic Downtown Weatherford
Saturday, July 9
8 AM – 4 PM
Jim Causey is a native Texan who enjoys the places that make our state unique, including sharing the best discoveries with others. He’s a burger connoisseur and Storm’s is in his top ten list.