Deeply cradled in the delicate folds of a blossom is the promise of a peach, a vulnerable fruit no bigger than a grain of rice.
Coaxed by warmer weather, the peach's early emergence was jarred by a cold snap earlier this week, leaving growers such as Mike Flinchbaugh to walk their rows like worried fathers.
It takes about a day after temperatures have dipped for the shock to manifest in the tender flower. With lows falling into the 20s Monday night, the Hellam Township farmer and others assessed damage Tuesday night and Wednesday. Some reported losing at least 10 percent of
"Sometimes the pistil will turn black," said Flinchbaugh, co-owner of Flinchbaugh's Orchard & Farm Market
From what he took in his hands, he estimated a loss of between 10 and 20 percent of his 13-acre crop. But it could have been worse.
Around sunrise Tuesday, his thermometers measured between 28 and 30 degrees, he said.
"But low-to-mid 20s, it could have been 50 percent or more," he added.
"We were fortunate," he said. "Overall, I think we made out pretty good. They were just past their main bloom so they were starting to get a little hardier."
Mid-20s did damage: While Flinchbaugh might have lucked out, a thermometer at York Township's Lehman's Orchard recorded a low of 23.7 Monday night, said owner David Lehman.
"We were saying 25 degrees would be bad, and we were under that," he said. "I just can't imagine we were not hurt. We never had peaches out this time of year, then to have 24 degrees. Even the clover in the grass was froze."
He said he was seeing some signs of damage Wednesday, but he couldn't estimate how much. He doubted it would be a devastating loss.
"We can lose 50 percent
While orchards were reporting losses, Miller Plant Farm owner Dave Miller said he was able to spare his early plants.
He covered a couple hundred plants of broccoli, something he doesn't typically expose until the first week of April, "but it was so nice I did it early," he said.
In York Township, about 20 percent of Sunnyside Farms' early strawberries were ruined when the blossoms froze, said owner Dennis Fitz.
The early crop is more valuable, as it brings the first local strawberries of the season, he said.
Hope weather holds: While some of the area's orchard owners and other farmers said the damage wasn't as bad as expected, they're hoping milder weather holds until plants and trees have moved through their tender periods.
Flinchbaugh, who also grows apples, pears, plums and nectarines, said the peaches are moving out of their vulnerable stage as apples and pears -- which haven't blossomed yet -- are moving into theirs.
"Another drop into the 20s over the next week or so could damage the apple and pear blossoms," he said.
-- Reach Christina Kauffman at 505-5436, email@example.com, or follow her on Twitter at @YDYorkCounty.