Summer in the South wouldn’t be the same without peaches. Whether eaten as-is, in a dessert or even as a sweet element to complement a savory dish, summer peaches don’t disappoint.

Few people know peaches as well as residents of Chilton County — Alabama’s peach capital.

Since the early 1900s, farmers have cultivated peaches there. Today, peaches are Alabama’s No. 1 commercial fruit, with Chilton County producing up to 75 percent of the state’s crop each year.

And few Chilton County residents know peaches like Janice Kelley, wife of Chilton County Farmers Federation President Wendell Kelley. Each summer, she serves samples to judges in the Peach Cook-Off, part of the famous Chilton County Peach Festival.

“When my husband was growing up and his family grew peaches, they went all over the state to sell them,” Janice said. “This county has just always been known as the peach county. Summer is filled with peach events around here. My granddaughters have been in some of the Peach Pageants, and I love helping with the Peach Cook-Off.”

But do Chilton County residents ever get tired of eating peaches? For the Kelleys, the answer is “no.”

“In our family — my daughter and her family all live close by — we keep peaches at our house all summer,” Janice said. “We are always running to the market to get another basket of peaches. We eat them fresh, cut them up and have them with ice cream or make our own homemade peach ice cream. And of course, we love peach cobbler.”

But peaches aren’t just for desserts. They’re a perfect pairing with pork, and summer sipping has never been sweeter than with peach punch.