Peaches land early on Atlanta restaurant plates

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Georgia peaches arrived early this year.

That realization came to me at a backyard party this past Memorial Day, while taking a bite from a perfectly ripe, sweet juicy peach. It wasn’t the first time I’ve been overtaken by the flavor of a Georgia peach, but it was the first time I’d had one that tasted rich and full with peak-season flavor a week before the end of May.

After asking around a bit, my suspicions were confirmed. Steven Satterfield of Miller Union told me, “We started getting peaches the first week of May this year, which is very odd.  Usually they come in June with blueberries, which are also early.”

Duke Lane, Jr. of Lane Southern Orchards told 13 WMAZ in Macon that this is one of “the earliest years that we have ever picked peaches,” and went onto explain that the unusually warm winter and spring produced the early crop. “It’s 20 degrees actually above normal. You talking about 70 degree nights and 90 degree days, peaches are really growing 24 hours.”

Perhaps that means we have global warming to thank for these peaches (or El Niño or whatever other phenomenon that explains the rather unpredictable weather patterns of recent years), but, in any case, they’re here and ready. With a dining scene increasingly centered on local, seasonal ingredients, restaurants have to roll with the changes, too.

That peach I had on Memorial Day happened to be from Pearson Farm, a Crawford, GA farm that supplies a number of local restaurants, including Satterfield’s Miller Union, Rathbun’s, and Bacchanalia, aside from their constant presence at local farmers markets.

I tracked down a few of the restaurants that Pearson has been supplying with peaches to see what they’ve been doing with the early crop. Over at Empire State South, chef Ryan Smith is already cooking up a peach gazpacho with pickled shrimp and fried bread for lunch and dinner (see above). At Farm Burger, chef Dan Latham told me that next week they’ll be adding their peach burger, which pairs a sweet, chili-flecked chutney of peaches with goat cheese and arugula. Satterfield’s Miller Union is working their peaches into specials and desserts, but will be adding them to the cocktail program and savory dishes (pickled peaches, peach juice glaze on quail, and so on) in the coming weeks.

Peach season traditionally runs through the end of summer, but Satterfield speculates that the season could end as early as it began, “Peach season typically runs from June to September but this year I imagine since it came in early, we will see them disappear sometime in August.” You might want to track down these dishes while you still can.

Top photo: Peach gazpacho at Empire State South, courtesy Jonathan Aherin.

Bottom photo: Peach burger at Farm Burger, courtesy Andrew Howard.

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