Most summers we make a trek or two over to Mitcham Farms in Ruston, Louisiana for their delicious peaches.
It’s usually in mid-July when the freestone peaches are in their prime. But with this year’s mild winter and lack of chill hours for the trees, Mitcham’s has already exhausted their supply for the season.
Ditto other places I checked–Ed Lester in Coushatta, Frierson Orchards and several orchards in Texas.
No more peaches this year.
So I expanded my research and found Efurd Orchards just south of Pittsburg, Texas. The bad news is that it is an hour and 45 minute-drive from my house. The good news is the Efurds expect to have plenty of peaches through early September, and the drive makes an interesting road trip through the Piney Woods of East Texas.
Efurds is a entertaining destination farm stand with a whole lot more than peaches and preserves. When we were there mid-week, the place was a abuzz with daytrippers and peach questers wandering around the vintage vehicles on the grounds, meandering around the antique artifacts in the open-air market and lining up at the homemade ice cream counter.
Click on any photo to launch photo gallery
Oh, yeah and loading up on peaches. On that day, juicy Red Contenders were ripe; this week, Redskins are expected. Customers not only were buying pecks of peaches, but tomatoes, watermelons, peas and any fruit or vegetable that grows in East Texas.
Owner Greg Efurd and his daughter were busy at the cash register and chatting with customers. They explained that the 20 varieties of peaches they planted allowed them enough diversity to have peaches when many others don’t.
The Efurds have been growing peaches since 1972 and now have about 15,000 trees spread out on 150 acres. They also grow other produce. It’s especially busy in the spring when strawberries are getting ripe and the fall harvest season when the stand is ablaze with pumpkins and colorful mums.
There are several routes to take from Shreveport, each with its own interesting diversion. We exited Interstate 20 onto U.S. Highway 80 east of Marshall and followed state highway 154 through the woods, stopping at the Bear Creek Smokehouse company store to stock up on their local sausages and bacon. We ate hamburgers at Swanner’s, in Gilmer and bought a yellow-meated watermelon at the cute Lineberger Produce on U.S. 271 heading toward Efurds.
Lineberger was selling peaches too. Further up the road we found McPeak Orchards, itself a nice stop with peaches and a good bit of produce.
Click on any photo to launch photo gallery
After Efurd’s, we wandered a few miles north of Pittsburg to get a look at the gargantuan Bo Pilgrim bust, which sits atop a gazebo at the Pilgrim’s poultry distribution center. Pilgrim is Pittsburg’s most famous resident. He once headed the nation’s largest poultry operation. Pilgrim’s is now owned by a Brazilian company but Bo Pilgrim’s presence is seen everywhere in Pittsburg,
Along the way, we passed a few more homespun garden produce stands; some in covered sheds; others spread out on folding tables in the front yard.
Texas isn’t lacking in “trails” to entice road trips. There’s bluebonnet trails, barbecue trails, wine trails, even presidential trails (LBJ, the Bushes and JFK Museum).
But I think we’ve just added our own peach trail to that list.
Efurd’s is on U.S. Highway 271 three miles of south of Pittsburg and is currently open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. While in Pittsburg, you may want to check out some of these places below, although the vineyards and the museum are only open Thursdays and weekends and the hot link place is closed Sundays. Check the websites for specific hours of operation.
Los Pinos Vineyards: One of 19 wineries on the East Texas Piney Woods Wine Trail, this one is just 2.5 miles away from Efurd Orchards on County Road 1334.
Northeast Texas Rural Heritage Museum: This is actually two museums — Depot Museum with a life-size replica of the Ezekiel Airship, a local flying invention that predated the Wright Brothers’ first flight; and Farmstead Museum, with historic buildings and demonstrations by people dressed in period costumes.
Pittsburg Hot Links: The hot links is a food item peculiar to this slice of East Texas. They are typically served in a bowl with saltines, cheese, onions and pickle slices . The Pittsburg Hot Links restaurant is in downtown Pittsburg.