Fruits indigenous to Texas are numerous in variety as well as amount. The list shows a formidable number of species, including red haws (Crataegus), forty-nine species; mulberries (Morus), four species; plums and cherries (Prunus), twenty species and five varieties; crabapples (Pyrus or Malus), five species and one variety; currants and gooseberries (Ribes), six species; grapes (Vitis), fifteen species and five varieties; whortleberries (Vaccinium), one species; persimmon (Diospyros), two species; black haws (Viburnum), one species; and pawpaw (Asimina), one species. Though the early statistics on commercial fruit production in the state are incomplete, they give some indication of the beginnings of the industry. In 1850, Brazos, Burleson, Montgomery, Brazoria, and Upshur counties were reported to have produced the most valuable orchard crops. In 1860 the value of Galveston's orchard crops exceeded that of all the other counties reporting for that year. The 1870 census reports, which were probably more carefully gathered, show that leading fruit-producing counties were Falls, Grayson, Washington, Harris, Colorado, Navarro, Lamar, and Hopkins. There was much horticultural activity in the 1870s, and fruit production increased enormously over that of the previous decade. In 1880 the leading counties were Cass, Grayson, Cherokee, Fannin, Rusk, Anderson, Lamar, Smith, Leon, and Nacogdoches. The production shown in the 1880 census amounted to five times that of the 1870 period. By 1890, a breakdown of the various fruits produced in the state on a commercial scale is shown in the census reports. Fruits reported for 1890 as being grown commercially were apples, peaches, pears, plums and prunes, cherries, and apricots. In 1900 figs, Japanese persimmons, blackberries and dewberries, currants, raspberries, and strawberries were added to the census.
During the first part of the twentieth century the commercial fruit industry continued to grow and production numbers were systematically tracked. Until just after World War II, 50 percent of the Texas fruit crop was sold fresh from market bins. With the advent of frozen foods, however, the demand for fully ripened fruits increased. By 1962 more than 60 percent of the Texas fruit crop went through some kind of processing-either drying, canning, or freezing. The location of Texas fruit producers near population centers was an advantage for the future growth of the industry. Problems encountered by fruit growers in the mid-1960s included rising production costs, labor problems, lack of mechanization, and lack of water. During the second half of the twentieth century fruits were generally marketed fresh rather than processed. Periodic severe freezes such as those during the winters of 1983–84 and 1989 had an adverse effect on fruit acreage and production. Of the fruits produced, peaches were considered the most important Texas fruit crop.
Apples reached their maximum, in number of bearing trees, by 1900; afterward the number of trees decreased. The leading counties in 1900 were Fannin, Grayson, Van Zandt, Smith, Cooke, Hopkins, Montague, and Gregg. Apple production has been scattered, and in general only estimated production figures are available. In 1948 approximately 350,000 bushels of apples was produced from 225,000 trees. From 1945 to 1949 production increased to some extent. A new apple section in Northeast Texas has been developed, but the older areas around Baird and Clyde in Callahan County and in the Alpine and Fort Davis section in extreme West Texas have shown little growth. The leading varieties are golden delicious, red delicious, King David, Holland, Jonathan, Stayman, and winesap. The East Texas crop is marketed in August, the Cross Timbers crop in September, and the Plains crop in October and November. In the 1990s Montague and Gillespie counties were leading apple producers. Major markets for the produce continued to be within the state.
In 1900 more than a million pear trees were reported in the state, but the number decreased rapidly after the teens. The leading counties in 1900 were Galveston, Harris, and Brazoria. Pear production in 1948 totaled 236,000 bushels with the price averaging $1.90 a bushel for a total value of $448,000. Subsequently, the number of trees declined further. The crop is mostly for local sale and home consumption in Northeast and north central Texas and in the Trans-Pecos. The upper Rio Grande region around El Paso is the main producing area in the state, but from there only two carloads were shipped in 1948. In the 1950s pear production in Texas remained widely scattered, the chief concentration being in the Panhandle, North Texas, and the upper Valley. Nearly all of the pears were sold locally or consumed at home. In 1960 Texas had 90,949 pear trees on 5,936 farms; four years later the number of trees had declined to 57,351. In the 1990s pear production continued to supply local markets and home consumption.
Peach production reached its apex in 1910, when nearly ten million trees of bearing age were reported. By 1930 the number of peach trees had decreased to fewer than half of the number reported in 1910. In 1949 Texas produced 2,310,000 bushels of peaches at an average price of $2.65 a bushel. The principal counties that have been important in commercial peach production are Parker, Eastland, Comanche, Mills, Gillespie, Cherokee, Morris, Red River, Navarro, and Limestone counties. The census of trees for 1945 showed that there were about 3,969,261 peach trees in the state. Plant diseases, droughts, and freezes subsequently damaged the industry. Peach production in 1954 totaled 180,000 bushels valued at $675,000. The following year, however, only thirty thousand bushels were produced because of a severe spring freeze. Despite this, Texas ranked sixth in United States production of peaches during the period from 1953 to 1957. The 1958 crop increased to a million bushels, the largest harvest in nine years. In the 1959 agricultural census, Texas had 7,634 farms reporting 806,309 peach trees; the following year the number of trees had increased to 1,500,000. Commercial output increased in the 1960s, when production concentrated in ten Texas counties in west central and East Texas that contributed 60 percent of the state's peaches. The frozen-food industry's demand for larger tree-ripened peaches, as well as the market for fresh peaches in the summer, continued to increase in the early 1960s, and by 1964 production totaled 550,000 bushels valued at $1,760,000. Studies devoted to the development of an improved system of marketing found that Texas peaches accounted for 65 percent of the total sales of stone fruit in the state. Production of peaches on more than 7,000 farms continued its expansion during the mid-1960s; the 1965 crop totaled 560,000 bushels valued at $2,016,000; the harvest jumped to 700,000 bushels valued at $2,205,000 the following year, when Texas peach trees numbered more than 600,000. The yield for 1970 was 688,000 bushels of peaches, worth $2,326,000. In the 1990s production of peaches occurred primarily in East Texas, the Western Cross Timbers, and the Hill Country. Peaches were also grown in Atascosa, Frio, Webb, Karnes, and Duval counties. In 1991 Texas ranked tenth nationally in peach production. In 1992 the harvest of 10.8 million pounds brought $7,696,000.
Plums and prunes also reached their maximum production in 1900, when more than a million trees were reported. A small decline began in 1910, and by 1930 the number had been cut in half. The average production of plums in the late 1940s was between 160,000 and 200,000 bushels a year. Production was principally in the East Texas counties of Houston, Smith, Wood, Upshur, Rusk, Van Zandt, and Cherokee. The red and yellow varieties are the most popular. Grapeland, in Houston County, shipped twelve cars of plums and prunes in 1948, after the area had recently planted extensive acreage in Bruce plums for commercial production. The crop begins moving to eastern markets in June, but a considerable portion of the crop is for local sale and home consumption. In the late 1950s plums accounted for 30 percent of the total stone fruit sales in Texas. Commercial production was centered in East Texas. In 1960 the agricultural census reported 257,153 plum trees on 4,703 farms. The number of trees decreased during the mid-1960s, to 117,878 in 1964. Production was estimated at 50,000 bushels in 1969. Smith, Gillespie, and Knox counties led the state in production in 1992, but demand was limited to processors or local markets.
Strawberry production has fluctuated widely. The leading counties from 1900 to 1930 were Galveston, Smith, Brazoria, Harris, and Atascosa. Production in 1948 totaled 63,000 twenty-four-quart crates, the average price being $9.00 a crate, for a total value of $567,000. At that time strawberries were the most important berry crop produced in the state. The total average annual acreage in the state from 1937 to 1946 was 1,360 acres. The main producing areas were Smith and Wood counties in East Texas, the coastal area below Houston, and the Winter Garden Region. Texas was not a leading state in strawberry production, however; the state grew less than 1 percent of the nation's strawberries in 1958. The following year the 600 harvested acres yielded 2,200 pounds per acre. In 1960 the Department of Agriculture indicated that annual Texas strawberry production had increased 13.7 percent over its 1949–58 average of 1,478,000 pounds. Four years later the average annual total had climbed to 2,600,000 pounds. At that time Texas was also one of the three states that grew early-spring strawberries. Principal commercial strawberry shipments were made from Hidalgo, Atascosa, and Wood counties. By the 1990s production of strawberries had blossomed in the Poteet area, south of San Antonio.
Blackberry and dewberry production increased from 1900 to 1930 and then stabilized. Cultivation was chiefly in Smith, Tarrant, Montague, Hopkins, Cooke, and Comanche counties. Blackberry and dewberry harvests averaged around 3,500,000 quarts a year during the 1940s; there was also a small production of loganberries. East Texas ships a few carloads of each of these three types of berries annually. Blackberries, dewberries, and related berries were sold locally in many eastern and northeastern Texas counties. Smith County remained the nation's principal market and shipping point for blackberries during the 1950s and 1960s. The four main Texas varieties were cultivated on 6,000 acres, with 90 percent of the average annual harvest of four million pounds being either canned or frozen; only 10 percent of the crop was sold fresh in markets in 1962. In the 1990s berry production in the state continued to be localized and small with Smith County being the center of production. A variety of blueberries adapted to the Texas climate was gaining popularity.
Figs first appeared as a horticultural crop in the 1900 census. The industry expanded until 1920, when it slumped, but by 1930 the fig census showed more than a million trees-ten times the number reported in 1900. Galveston and Brazoria were the top fig-producing counties from 1900 to 1930. Other counties producing large amounts were Harris, Matagorda, Jefferson, and Orange. Texas produced about a thousand tons of figs annually during the late 1940s, when the annual value was over $75,000. Though most fig production occurred in the area south and southwest of Houston, figs had been grown all over the state. The Magnolia fig was grown for canning and the Texas everbearing for the fresh market. Considerable commercial production took place in the Gulf Coast area, with emphasis on preserving. Total 1964 production from the 57,466 fig trees located on 2,805 farms was more than a million pounds. Production numbers for the 1990s were unavailable.
The Texas cherry crop averages only about 60,000 pounds a year. The growing area is concentrated in Wheeler, Lipscomb, and Oldham counties on the High Plains. Production consists mostly of the sour variety for local sale and home consumption. Early Richmond is the most important variety.
Watermelons are produced in nearly all parts of the state, with the main production being in the south central and eastern parts of the state and in Parker, Grimes, and Harris counties. The Rio Grande plains and East Texas sandy lands account for half of the total acreage. In 1949 Texas produced 11,840,000 watermelons on 64,000 acres. The 1937–46 average was 7,230,000 melons from 48,360 acres. Three-fourths of the commercial acreage was in the Black Diamond variety-less than 1 percent was yellow flesh. In 1992 watermelons were grown on 44,000 acres, and the crop brought $34,320,000.
Cantaloupe production for 1949 was approximately 306,000 crates from 5,100 acres. Commercial movement was from four counties, Webb, Presidio, Reeves, and Hidalgo. The two hybrids honeydew and honeyball were also grown in this area. The 1937–46 average production was 273,000 crates grown on 5,280 acres and valued at about $3.55 a crate. By 1990 farmers harvested 13,000 acres of canteloupes with a value of $43,524,000. In 1992 production dropped to only 11,000 acres with a market value of $24,123,000.
Grape culture has become important in Texas. By 1960 over 100 experimental varieties illustrated the development of hybrids from Old World and American species. Several wild Texas grapes were used in this blending process. Grape production in the 1960s centered in Montague, Denton, Wise, Grayson, Wichita, San Patricio, El Paso, Reeves, and Wheeler counties. Although wineries at Del Rio, Newcastle, and Fredericksburg used a small portion of the harvest, most grapes were sold locally or consumed at home. During the 1980s and 1990s the use of grapes increased for a growing wine industry in the state, and vineyards became a common feature of the landscape in areas of the state as widely varied as the Hill Country and the Panhandle. See also AGRICULTURE, BRACERO PROGRAM, MIGRANT LABOR, and CITRUS FRUIT CULTURE.