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In 1976, New York became the first state to name an official state fruit, the humble apple. Other states have been following suit ever since — choosing familiar favorites like the peach (Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina) or highly specific fruits like the Texas red grapefruit and South Arkansas vine ripe pink tomato. Often, these designations are based on the state’s agriculture or a cultural connection to a particular fruit. It makes sense that New York has the apple, for example, since it is the second-largest apple-producing state, and many towns, such as Warwick in the Hudson Valley, are known for them. Learn about Warwick and six other U.S. towns where fruit has become a way of life for local residents — dominating everything from agriculture to local cuisine and summer festivals.
Traverse City, Michigan: Cherries
Traverse City, located on a peninsula that juts out into Lake Michigan near the top of Michigan’s mitten, has only about 15,500 residents — but the area has grown most of the state's sweet cherries for the past century. In 1924, the town hosted a ceremony called “Blessing of the Blossoms” that turned into an annual event, and is now known as the National Cherry Festival. The peak months to enjoy the cherries themselves are July and August, when stands, markets, and pick-your-own farms overflow with the fruit, and local restaurants try to incorporate them into seasonal dishes. But don’t miss a chance to get there in May for cherry blossom season. The delicate white blooms cover miles of land surrounding Traverse City for about a week or two.
Palisade, Colorado: Peaches
Peaches in Colorado — and specifically Palisade peaches, from the town of the same name near Grand Junction — are bursting with juice and sweetness. The climate of the area in the summer (cool nights and long sunny days) creates a chemical reaction that enhances both the flavor and juiciness of the fruit. The region wasn’t always good for fruit, thanks to its lack of rain, but in 1882, colonizer John Harlow and his wife planted some of the first peach trees there and built a canal from the Colorado River to irrigate the area. Now, Palisade peaches are shipped all over the world. In the late 1800s, the town began hosting Peach Days, which has continued annually and is now the Palisade Peach Festival.
Key West, Florida: Key Limes
The seeds for the first key lime trees likely arrived in the Florida Keys from Malaysia in the 1500s. The fruit (also known as the Mexican lime or West Indies lime) became incredibly popular, so much that the fruit took on a new name inspired by the archipelago, and Key West in particular. Although the trees are pretty scarce in the area now thanks to a 1926 hurricane, Key West has continued its claim on key limes. Legend says the iconic key lime pie was first invented in Key West in the late 1800s by millionaire William Curry’s cook, Aunt Sally, though that history is up for debate. Regardless, the first recipes weren’t documented until the 1930s, and key lime pie became the official state pie of Florida in 2006.
Hammonton, New Jersey: Blueberries
Around 80% of the blueberries produced in New Jersey come from the Outer Coastal Plain region, and most of the fruit originates in or near Hammonton, the self-proclaimed Blueberry Capital of the World. The fine, acidic, sandy soil in the Outer Coastal Plain is ideal for blueberry growth, and combined with the heat and humidity there, allows the berries to thrive. Blueberries arrived in the region in the early 1900s, when Elizabeth Coleman White, a cranberry farmer’s daughter, worked with botanist Frederick Coville from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop the first cultivated blueberries in the country. Today, the blueberry industry in New Jersey is valued at more than $75 million. Hammonton hosts an annual festival celebrating the fruit, called the Red, White, and Blueberry Festival.
Warwick, New York: Apples
Every year, more than 35,000 people come to the Hudson Valley to celebrate Applefest, held in the small village of Warwick, New York. To say apple culture is strong there would be an understatement. Some orchards have been producing apples for multiple generations, and six of them have joined together to create the Warwick Valley Apple Trail. Apples have been a fixture of New York produce for centuries, and Warwick has the ideal conditions. Getting out to a pick-your-own orchard is a staple of fall living in the area — and for the thousands of visitors who come to Warwick to enjoy it.
Oxnard, California: Strawberries
In the 1970s, strawberry cultivation began to boom in Oxnard, an agricultural beach community 60 miles north of Los Angeles. The town was building on a long tradition of strawberry farming in the area, which began in the early 1900s, when Japanese immigrants came to the West Coast and realized the potential for strawberry growth. The berries were profitable, and a lot could grow in a small area. Japanese Americans soon dominated the strawberry industry — a 1910 survey showed that 80% of the growers in Los Angeles County were of Japanese descent. In the 1950s, Los Angeles County, Orange County, and other nearby regions were responsible for 60% of the national strawberry production. Farmers later expanded to farther-out regions like Oxnard. Today, Oxnard has double the acreage of Los Angeles and Orange County’s strawberry farms combined — and the area produces 80% of the nation’s strawberries.
Hopkins, Minnesota: Raspberries
If you’ve never seen a raspberry that weighs half a ton and dangles from a 22-foot-tall vine, you need to head to Hopkins, a suburb of Minneapolis. Here, in the self-proclaimed Raspberry Capital of the World, you’ll find the world’s largest raspberry. Normal raspberries thrive here, too — they were first introduced by farmers in the 1880s and immediately took to the soil. Raspberry farms multiplied in the early 1900s, and in 1935, the annual raspberry festival started. The raspberries began to dwindle as suburban expansion took up farmland, but the fruit had become an icon by then. Now, the town is making a point to plant more raspberry patches locally.