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A Peachy Crop Predicted

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HIGH POINT — Come early summer, Tar Heel tables may wellbe laden with peach cobbler and deep-dish pie, homemade ice cream, peachMelba, and all manner of jams and jellies that star peaches. The reason?A fabulous crop of the fuzzy fruit.

Right now, the trees are slathered in bloom. And every tiny flower hasthe potential to swell into a luscious rotund peach.

In a few weeks, however, the abundant blooms may force a dilemma on thefarmers: whether to prop up overloaded branches or to prune back toensure production of fewer, but better-sized fruit less likely todamage their trees.

North Carolina usually ranks eighth in peach production. Annualharvest is about 32 million pounds. Last year's devastatingMarch freezes knocked that harvest down to only 1.9 million pounds.

This year's crop is benefiting, ironically, from last year'sdisappointment. Since no energy was required to produce fruit insubstantial quantities last year, the energy carried over to boosting thisyear's output.

One peach farmer predicted the crop could even come in early -- butfrost can show up capriciously when it's least desired.

If temperatures remain steady, stores and roadside stands should berunning over with peaches by the second week in June. So dig out thoserecipes.