The Time Is Ripe for Peaches (and Love?) at Ham Orchards

The Time Is Ripe for Peaches (and Love?) at Ham Orchards
Kristina Rowe
There’s nothing quite like a sweet Texas peach in the summertime, and as summer winds down, Ham Orchard in Terrell will soon close for the season. If you haven’t made your annual peach trek yet, or if you’ve never visited this paradise for peach lovers, you need to get there by Aug. 14 or put it on your bucket list for next year.

Sure, you can get great peaches now at a nearby farmers market or your local grocery store. Freestone peaches, the kind where the pit isn’t attached to the fruit, ripen throughout August and are best eaten fresh.

But for everything peachy, a trip to Ham Orchard is a must. Even though the roadside market doesn’t offer a pick-your-own experience, their 10,000 trees on five orchards deliver enough peaches to make anything you can dream up. From peach pie and coffee cake to peach salsa and barbecue sauce, you’ll find it all in their store.

You can buy peaches by the bag or a half bushel, and be sure to also try the peach pulled pork at the barbecue stand then finish the visit with peach (or strawberry) soft serve ice cream.
click to enlarge The quaint shop is just - KRISTINA ROWE
The quaint shop is just
Kristina Rowe

It’s Worth the Drive

Located just off of Highway 80, the orchard is about a 30-minute drive from downtown Dallas. It’s a straight shot down Interstate 30 to Highway 80. On the way, you’ll pass through Forney, where antique stores line a portion of the highway.

There’s not much else to see in Terrell, but nostalgia buffs will love seeing small local cafes, an old-school bowling alley and a skating rink all still operating. Driving through the frozen-in-time "Main Street” feels like a trip down memory lane even if you’ve never visited Terrell before.

If you want to make a day of it, it’s about 17 miles down State Highway 205 to Rockwall where you’ll find (among other things) another charming downtown, lakeside dining, the newly opened Siren Rock Brewery and an Urban Air Adventure park for the kids.
click to enlarge They even put peaches in the 'que. - KRISTINA ROWE
They even put peaches in the 'que.
Kristina Rowe

The BBQ Pavilion by Eddie Deen

From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (when the market closes), you can order barbecue from a walk-up window and eat on the expansive covered pavilion. Make your way to the back to snag a comfy rocking chair or gather the whole family around a table.

You’ll probably have to wait a bit in the line for the Eddie Deen’s barbecue served here, but on my visit, the line moved fast and food came out quickly too. You can order chopped or sliced brisket, sausage, smoked chicken or pulled pork, and they even have hot dogs for anyone who’s not up for barbecue.

Though not outstanding, the brisket was moist and had a nice smoky flavor that was improved with homemade barbecue sauce.

But the star of the show here is the peach pulled pork, which isn’t just flavored with peaches but has peaches cooked right in it. Even though you’ll need a fork to eat it, I highly recommend ordering it as a sandwich because the bread is divine.

Sides include charro beans, potato salad, coleslaw or chips and combos include one side and a canned soft drink or sweet tea (the peach kind if you’re up for it). If your visit has to be a short one, you can get family packs of the peach pulled pork, sliced or chopped brisket or smoked chicken to take home.

Whatever you decide on, be sure to save room for ice cream for dessert.
click to enlarge KRISTINA ROWE
Kristina Rowe

Inside the Farm Market Store

Inside the surprisingly large market store, you’ll indeed find all things peaches, but it’s not all about peaches. In addition to the peach orchards, the Ham family grows vegetables and other fruits. Beautiful tomatoes, red onions and cucumbers were offered the day I went as well as strawberries, blueberries and plums.

Pecans and pecan candy and locally grown honey (and jars to store it in) line the shelves.

If you wander the store and get one of everything that looks good, you’ll need a shopping cart (and they have them). Baked goods and fudge made onsite are well stocked, but you’ll need to get there early for fried pies or a whole peach pie. Those sell out fast.

You’ll see rows and rows of jars containing peaches canned on-site along with every imaginable jam, jelly, sauce, relish and pickle you could want. There are multiple varieties of jarred peach salsa, there are some other fabulous finds including black-eyed pea dip, big dill pickle salsa, and green chile tamale salsa.

Freezer cases are stocked with pints and half-pints of peach and strawberry ice cream to take home, or you can get a soft-serve cone or cup at the counter, where you’ll also be tempted by several varieties of homemade fudge.
click to enlarge The housemade ice cream might be worth the drive itself. - KRISTINA ROWE
The housemade ice cream might be worth the drive itself.
Kristina Rowe

Made with Love

The shop is a bit kitschy but there’s magic to be found if you can suspend your cynicism for a short while. For starters, there are a number of love stories wrapped into this thriving small-town business.

Started by Dale and Judy Ham with 50 peach trees they planted in 1979, the business has been embraced by the community (and beyond). Now people come from all over the United States to visit the orchards.

On one wall in the shop, a framed newspaper story tells the “cute meet” story of the Hams’ daughter Sharien and her husband, Richard Strange, who now work at the orchard full time during its season. It’s not the only love story to come out of the orchard.

Staffed largely by high school and college students from May to August, Ham Orchard shared its latest “orchard couple” on its Facebook page in late July. Recently engaged employees Caitlyn and Kurtis fell in love while working there over the years, and they’re the fifth love match made at the orchards since Sharien and Richard met in 1985 and married in 1987.

If you have a summer crush on peaches, or even if you don’t, you’ll likely find something (or someone?) to love at Ham Orchard, but you have to get there soon.

Ham Orchard, 11939 County Road 309 (Terrell). 972-524-2028. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday through Aug.14.
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By day, Kristina Rowe writes documentation that helps users navigate software, and as a contributor to the Dallas Observer she helps people find their way to food and fun. A long-time list-maker, small-business fan and happiness aficionado, she's also been an Observer reader for almost 40 years.
Contact: Kristina Rowe