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Drought Making Some California Fruit Smaller, Tastier


The drought is changing the size and flavor of California's fruit.

Shoppers tend to pick up the largest peach in the pile. But, Kevin Day says bigger doesn't always mean better. He's a tree fruit farm advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension.

"That smaller peach this year very likely is sweeter than the moderate-sized peach of last year," says Day.

When a crop's hydration is restricted it leads to lower water content and higher sugar content -- hence more flavor.

But, it's not always that simple. Day says there are many variables at play. So, even though this year's smaller fruit is tastier, sometimes it's just the opposite.

"Each year sort of stands on its own," he says.

Day says stone fruits like peaches, plums and apricots are about ten to twenty percent smaller than usual this year.

Mostly that's because of the drought, but California also had unusually warm temperatures just after bloom in January and February -- causing fruit to ripen faster.

"A variety that might ripen after 120 days of being on a tree in a year like this ripens in only 110," he says. "And, so it's consequently shortchanged out of 10 days of growing."

Ten fewer growing days means smaller fruit.

Day says fruit mass and weight are going to be most affected in the hottest regions of the state like the southern Central Valley.

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