Richard Schaefer, of Lewiston, has harvested what he believes is a peach that nearly rivals the biggest peach on record.
Schaefer’s big peach weighs in at 1.5 pounds and measures more than 4 inches in diameter. According to the Guiness World Records, the heaviest peach ever documented was on July 11, 2018, in Fort Valley, Ga. That champion globe weighed 1.8 pounds.
“It’s just huge. I haven’t seen anything like this since I was a kid,” Schaefer, 74, said of his giant peach. “I’ve got it covered in the refrigerator but I don’t want it to go to waste. I’m going to have to eat it one of these days.”
That the peach survived at all is something of a miracle. Schaefer, whose family has operated Schafers’ Orchard in the Lewiston Orchards since 1946, maintains a remnant of what was once a thriving fruit business. Although he’s no longer commercial, Schaefer still raises some fruit and corn and gives most of the produce away to the Idaho Food Bank.
This year, the peach tree in question was nearly killed by frost early on. Schaefer said he knew frost was possible and was keeping a close eye on his orchard.
He rose from bed around 3 a.m. one morning this spring when frost was predicted and the temperature still seemed to be holding above the freeze zone.
“Then I got up at 4 (a.m.), and the temperature went down to 28. So I went out and set up my sprinkler system” but most of the blooms froze anyway. Schaefer said only 12 to 15 peaches survived on the tree.
But they, also, grew to above-average size. A neighbor recently took two of the other peaches from the tree and made a whole pie with them.
The mammoth peach is something of a consolation in a business that has had plenty of heartbreaks through the years. At one time, Schaefer said, his family operated about 500 fruit trees on 10 acres and a few other locations off-site.
Fruit trees are vulnerable to all sorts of pests and diseases. Apple trees that he had been cultivating were nearly decimated two years ago by a blight. He also tried raising a variety of apples from a cultivar from the 1800s, “but that’s not going so well.”
“We used to raise about an acre of corn but that ground got eaten up by a western larch seed orchard,” he said.
Schaefer continued the business until the 1980s “and we stayed pretty busy, as far as acreage. Then it got to be too much work. You don’t make any money. It’s just a passion.”
Although he continues to raise a big garden, Schafer said he’s looking toward retirement one of these days. And as far as the giant peach: “It can keep in the refrigerator a week, a week and a half, and then you’ve got to eat it.”
Hedberg may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 983-2326.