Peaches (like everything else) are ripening earlier this year and South Haven peaches are starting to show up at farm markets across the state. This nice Michigan Peach Industry History article from the Michigan Peach Sponsors begins:
The first peach tree in western Michigan was probably planted by William Burnett, who established a trading post on the west bank of the St. Joseph River a mile upstream from Lake Michigan in the 1780s. Burnett planted an orchard near his post and was credited with having taken great pains in caring for it. When the first permanent settlers reached the area in the late 1820s they found Burnett’s orchard healthy and still bearing fruit. Besides a few peach trees, the settlers also found a few seedling peach trees growing along the east bank of Hickory Creek and at the future site of the community of St. Joseph.
The next peach trees planted in Berrien County were at the Carey Mission in present-day Niles Township. In 1826 the Reverend Isaac McCoy, founder of the mission, had a peach orchard of “two or three hundred” trees.
Berrien’s earliest permanent settlers brought seedling fruit trees with them and planted enough trees to provide for their personal needs. Because trees took a long time to mature, some of the more resourceful pioneers budded their fruits on the roots of wild plum trees to acquire crops more quickly. Most early settlers planted apple and pear trees that were hardy and relatively disease resistant. They also planted a considerable number of the more delicate peach trees. Nearly every pioneer family had at least one. The growing of peaches was slow to catch on, but when settlers realized the region was suited for successful cultivation of the climate-sensitive fruit, peaches quickly gained popularity.
Read on for more and also see Ready to Pick: Peaches on Absolute Michigan.
More great Michigan foods on Michigan in Pictures!