Fall peaches bred in Niagara
Extending Canada's peach growing season will mean better returns for growers and an added opportunity for consumers to enjoy the local fruit longer, said Jay Subramanian.
Subramanian said that tender fruits such as peaches "taste better and have their full aroma and flavour when consumed fresh, as opposed to apples and bananas where the taste continues to improve after picking."
A recent report by Deloitte and Touche LLP found that consumption of fresh fruit in Canada has increased by 12 per cent over the past 20 years.
"People are also realizing that the health benefits of these fruits are at their highest when they are consumed fresh," said Subramanian.
Imported peaches from California being sold by many Canadian supermarkets are displayed side by side with locally grown peaches, he said.
"The imported are picked too soon and by the time they travel from miles away in cooler trucks they naturally lose their flavours," said Subramanian.
Another reason he gave for extending the season is that "it gives the growers here an opportunity to cover their bases."
"So if a grower has a 50-acre farm he can grow 10 acres of the early peaches and about 15 acres of mid-season and another five to 10 acres of the late-season peaches."
Subramanian says developing peach varieties that are more resistant to cooler temperatures isn't easy.
"It takes time because perennial fruits such as peaches have a long breeding cycle of about 15 years."
But after several years of research, he has now created a number of genotypes that are resistant to cold temperatures.
The next step, he says, is to identify the correct combinations such as cold-resistant varieties with rich quality and commercial attributes.
This discovery is important for local growers, who are always searching for better varieties, including those that appeal to different tastes, some of which can be culturally determined.
"People from different countries prefer different types of peaches," says Subramanian.
For example, the North American public seems to prefer a yellow-fleshed peach with bright red skin and a lot of stripes or blotches. The Asian population prefer a white-fleshed peach with more greenish skin and Europeans tend to prefer a uniform garnet-skinned peach with minimal stripes, he says.
Subramanian's research is being conducted at the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in Ontario's Niagara region.