Cream of the crop – Texas Monthly

In a state the size of Texas, a city has to have something special enough to get noticed. And what put these nine places on the map is their reputation as the source of an agricultural specialty unmatched elsewhere. Some of these fully professional products are renowned across the country (like Pecos cantaloupe), while other cultures claim ever-expanding regional stardom (e.g. Hemphill watermelons). Just as an English muffin is different from any old muffin, and French toast is a slice above regular bread, these products deserve their geographic qualifiers; the name of the city promises a level of quality which is not the result of chance but of the perfect marriage of the products with the soil and the climate. Of course, nature can be fickle: a late frost in March pinched peach and blueberry growers. But then again, a small harvest simply serves to increase the mystique of a particular delicacy, so that the next bumper harvest will satisfy farmers and consumers. Whether it’s grapefruit, strawberries, or cotton, the best Texas crops grow on you.

Fredericksburg Fishing

Not just another roadside attraction, Fredericksburg fishing is a summer Hill Country staple. From May to August, the fruit stalls are full of baskets of the fuzzy and fragrant specialty for which Gillespie County is famous. Succulent adherent stones, ideal for cobblers and ice cream, ripen first, followed by equally delicious cut stones, which are preferred for freezing and canning. The number one fruit crop in Gillespie County accounts for 10 percent of the state’s total peach production; this year, over 100,000 bushels, grown on 1,200 acres, will bring in a minimum of $ 3 million in acreage. While this spring’s frost was the pit for local growers, orchard owner Gary Marburger saw worse, like the 1987 frost that destroyed his entire farm. But there’s still plenty of fruit on the trees, Marburger hastens to say, which means the outlook for central Texas peach pickers is ginger.

Poteet Strawberry

In just one city in Texas, has the municipal water tower been painted to look like a gargantuan strawberry. This town is, of course, Poteet, the self-proclaimed strawberry capital of Texas, where just over fifty acres produces 25,000 apartments (or 300,000 pints) each March and April. Never mind that Poteet’s bounty grows on cut runners of California plants (due to the withered Texas heat, strawberry growers have to replant annually); the berries grown on site have been famous throughout the state since 1918. According to some locals, the mineral water pumped from the area’s irrigation wells is the source of the delicious flavor.

San Antonio-based grocery chain HEB, for example, uses Poteet treats in the strawberry version of its specialty ice cream, which is available for up to six weeks each spring. But the production of Poteet berries is decreasing every year. Young farmers don’t want to inherit a labor-intensive, less-than-lucrative crop – the price of a dish of berries has risen slightly since about 1968, from $ 12 or $ 15. This means that the city’s Strawberry Festival, known for its pure strawberry wine, strawberry shortcake and other fruity products, could eventually end up in real jam.

Grapefruit Mission

The bad news is that the ruby ​​red variety is out. The good news is that Ray Ruby and Star Ruby are even better. The besieged grapefruit growers of the lower Rio Grande valley have largely turned to the new varieties, which are tougher, more prolific, and an even deeper crimson (although any red grapefruit, whether dark or light , from the original variety born in Texas). This year, grower Ken Martin of WareHouse Farms in Mission, the undisputed center of the state’s citrus industry and site of the annual Citrus Fiesta, expects to nearly quadruple his 1992 production by 200,000 cartons ( at forty pounds per). Across the valley, producers will ship 3,000,000 boxes, or $ 60 million in 1993, just a splash in the eyes compared to the 22,000,000 boxes collected before the freezes of the last decade. But the industry remains optimistic and relies on regional chauvinism to help the recovery. “We’ve learned that Texans don’t want to be left behind for their great state,” said Mary McKeever, citrus marketing manager. “They know that not all grapefruits are created equal.”

Pecos Cantaloupe

The town of Pecos, in West Texas, prides itself on hosting the state’s very first rodeo and growing the sweetest cantaloupe on planet Earth. Many Texans dispute the first, but no one denies the second. Planted since about 1880, Pecos melons took off in the 1920s when the Texas and Pacific Railway, which ran through town, began purchasing the local specialty to serve in its dining cars. Word spread from top to bottom, and discerning diners quickly enjoyed chilled Pecos melons like New York’s “21”. Today, demand continues and the handful of growers produce 40 million pounds per year, worth up to $ 5 million. According to local melon specialist AB Foster, home gardeners across the country regularly write asking for seeds, but are doomed to disappointment; he specifies in his answer that in fact, the climate of the region and the alkaline soil produce the ambrosia flavor. Pecos melons usually hit stores in mid-July, but since opportunists frequently import California cantaloupes, which ripen earlier, and rename them “Pecos,” locals joke that in June you can get them. “Pecos” cantaloupe anywhere except Pecos.

Lubbock cotton

Rarely has a town worked on a crop as Lubbock did on cotton. The city of the High Plains is surrounded by 177,000 planted acres, which means that up to 80 million pounds of cotton is harvested in the county each fall. (Each of those fluffy white balls that travelers spot along the road weighs up to 510 pounds.) Lubbock also owns fifteen gins, an annual Maid of Cotton beauty pageant, and at Texas Tech University, the International Center for textile research, as well as a plant stress lab that measures the effect of drought and heat on the region’s number one crop. In total, farmers in Lubbock County and the 25 surrounding counties work 3.5 million acres of cotton, more than half of the state’s total production (which is the largest cotton producer in the United States since time immemorial). That translates to a total of $ 1.1 billion, even before the lint and seeds are turned into fabric for clothing and other dry goods and food for livestock (and even, cottonseed oil). , for humans). King Cotton treated Lubbock royally – and dissenters can keep their cotton-picking mouths shut.

Tyler rose

For Texans, a rose is a rose is a Tyler rose. While the bluebonnet belongs to all of Texas, the rose is strictly the province of this east Texas city, where commercial growers experimented with it as early as 1840. After insects and disease destroyed the industry of the Smith County fishery in 1902 and the Depression ruining cotton farmers in the thirties, roses bloomed in Tyler’s main crop. Today, 20 million rose bushes bring in $ 50 million in the region, easily confirming Tyler’s status as the Rose Capital of America. The city has turned fourteen of its most fragrant acres into the largest municipal rose garden in the country and hosts an extravagant rose festival every year, which turns 60 this fall. Because Tyler roses (with the exception of Earl Campbell) tend to be small, florists rarely purchase them; sales from street vendors and roadside stalls account for most of the cut roses purchased each year. Tyler roses come in a variety of reds and pinks, but the city, in true Texan style, flaunts the yellow rose as well.

Hemphill Watermelon

From an economic standpoint, wood means more to the hamlet of Hemphill in eastern Texas, which borders the Sabine National Forest, than its relatively minor summer harvest of watermelons. But what watermelons! Says City Secretary Trina Jerge: “Since I’ve been living here, that is, since I was nine, everyone knows that there are some farmers around Hemphill who grow the best watermelons. I remember an old gentleman who had these big yellow meat melons – everyone wanted one. Although Hemphill has only two commercial growers, Sabine County Extension Officer John Toner says that many people regard watermelons as a “backyard crop”; they can produce up to 45,000 pounds per acre and make a decent profit – maybe $ 1,500 per acre – peddling All Sweet, Black Diamond, Queen of Hearts and other guys on roadside stalls . The fruit is so well suited to the area’s sandy loam that watermelon vines even grow wild behind Hemphill Town Hall.

Blueberry hooks

The Texans can’t wait to put their hooks in Hooks’ blueberries. The state’s most recent hit, blueberries have only grown commercially here since 1986. The Texas Blues, as the industry calls them, thrive in the sandy, acidic soil of East Texas, especially in this small town. town just ten miles from the Arkansas border. The most suitable type for hooks is known as the unappetizing ‘rabbit eye’, due to a pink flower scar ring that appears on every fruit, but everything else on marble-sized berries. is downright enticing. Last July, 750,000 pounds of fresh Texas blueberries hit major city markets the day after harvest, raising more than $ 1 million for Texas farmers. Due to the March frost, consumers may have to settle for fewer blueberries this year, which means they will suffer from a different kind of Texas blues.

Seguin Pecan Nuts

Prehistoric Indians harvested them, Cabeza de Vaca survived, and George Washington cultivated them as an agricultural curiosity. But Texans are particularly fond of pecans. The pecan is an official symbol of the state, thanks in large part to Governor James Hogg, who wanted one to mark his grave, and the pecan appears in pie, pralines, and a myriad of other treats. . Texas pecan growers produced 60 million pounds in 1992, for which consumers shelled over $ 26 million. Several cities, notably San Saba, claim the unofficial title of the Pecan Capital of the World, but in the collective mind of Texas, the real claimant is Seguin. Guadalupe County Seat has a five-foot-long replica of its favorite delicacy on the lawn of its courthouse. Additionally, the city’s fathers and mothers plan to open the very first pecan museum, which will tell the intertwined stories of the nut and the city, possibly omitting a mention of Seguin’s first name. , Walnut Springs.

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