Bad news, fellow stone fruit fans: Due to an unusual warm spell in mid-winter followed by two brutal cold snaps, an assortment of crops in the Northeast (from roughly central New Jersey up through New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont) have been utterly decimated.
According to NOAA, this past February was the Northeast’s most unusually warm month in recorded history.
“Things like peaches, apricots, they start to come out pretty quick as soon as it gets warm out,” Steven Clarke of Prospect Hill Orchards, in Milton, New York, told Modern Farmer.
The unexpectedly warm weather actually tricked the stone fruit trees in the Northeast to believe the arrival of spring was upon them, and to begin the budding process which would eventually yield flowers and ultimately fruit.
However, when the warm spell was followed by two deep freezes (one in mid-February and one in early April), nearly all of the stone fruit buds were destroyed. Even the farmer’s best techniques to deal with aggressive cold spells were insufficient to save the crops.
“There was absolutely nothing you could do about it,” says Clarke.
Kay Rentzel of the National Peach Council told Delish: “There are some regions that are still blooming right now. In California and Georgia, they're already starting to harvest. The mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions, we don't have a full handle on because of the earliness of the season.”
Growers in the Northeast will therefore be forced to purchase stone fruits from faraway regions, like California and Georgia, with actual growing crops — which means that Northeastern fruit-lovers can expect items like peaches, cherries, apricots, nectarines and plums to come with a higher price tag this summer.
Here’s the silver lining, though: if you regularly purchase your peaches from supermarkets, then the shortage won’t have as much of an impact on you. Fruit tree specialist Win Cowgill told Delish that New England peach growers do not actually factor much into grocery stores' supply.
Those who purchase the majority of their stone fruits from local fruit stands or farmers markets, however, should begin saving up now if they plan on enjoying the fruits this summer.