OCCUPATION: Clemson University professor, peach evangelist
HOBBIES: Deer hunting, hiking and photography
FAVORITE PEACH VARIETY: Winblo. “It has a perfect creamy, melting texture and a fabulous blend of sugar and acidity.”
Tiger fans often claim they “bleed orange,” but Clemson University professor Desmond Layne says of himself, “I bleed peach.”
His father was a breeder of peaches for Canada’s national agricultural agency, and Layne’s first job—at 14—was picking peaches for $2.15 per hour. Since then he’s earned a Ph.D. in horticulture, produced the definitive textbook on peaches, lectured around the world and been featured in national newspaper, radio and television interviews.
Layne earned the moniker “Dr. Peach” for his work testing different cultivars South Carolina growers use to extend their commercial season from May to mid-September. While 80 percent of the state’s crop is shipped elsewhere, Layne’s other professional mission is to remind South Carolinians we have the privilege of enjoying tree-ripened peaches throughout the summer.
“Our peaches don’t have to travel thousands of miles to get to the market, thus they can be picked at a later stage of maturity making them sweeter and a better eating experience,” he says. “The July-August harvest window is when the fruit has the best eating quality.”
But like lazy summer days, juicy, perfectly ripe peaches are only around for a short time.
“Peaches are a summertime treat and they should be enjoyed in the summertime,” Layne says. “The best way to do that is at the local farmer’s market or roadside stands getting tree-ripened fruit. That way you’re guaranteed a satisfying eating experience. Let it drip off your face, off your elbow, onto your shirt. It’s part of the joy of summer.”