“Reliance” (Prunus persica “Reliance”) and “Contender” (Prunus persica “Contender”) are both cold-hardy, freestone peach trees that grow well in northern latitudes with cold winters. “Reliance” will likely survive colder winters, but the peaches on the more recently developed “Contender” are slightly larger and are considered by some fruit experts to taste better, relegating "Reliance" to mostly a canning variety.
“Reliance” peaches are medium to large -- 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 inches in diameter -- with yellow skin blushed with red and bright yellow flesh. “Contender” is 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter with yellow flesh. Seventy-five to 90 percent of its surface is red, and its flesh is light yellow and aromatic.
In the early 1960s, University of New Hampshire horticulturalists developed “Reliance” as a cold-hardy peach for New Hampshire winters. The North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station released “Contender” in 1987. “Contender” is a hybrid of “Summercrest” (Prunus persica “Summercrest”) and “Redhaven” (Prunus persica “Redhaven”).
Both “Reliance” and “Contender” will grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 8. However, “Reliance” is considered the hardier of the two. It bore fruit after surviving temperatures of minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit in University of New Hampshire trials in the winter of 1961-1962.
The date peaches ripen depends on the local climate. Both “Reliance” and “Contender” ripen in early to mid-August, but “Contender” takes about 13 days longer.
“Contender” is generally thought to taste better than “Reliance.” Penn State University Extension says the fruit quality of "Reliance" is "only fair," and University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension says the fruit is of "fair quality." Gurney's Seed & Nursery Co., which sells both varieties, says "Contender" equals the older cultivar in hardiness and has much improved flavor.
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Prunus Persica “Reliance”
- North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension Service: Peach Tree Variety Description
- North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension Service: Chilling Requirements of Selected Peach Varieties
- University of Missouri Cooperative Extension: Home Fruit Production: Peach and Nectarine Culture
- Penn State University Extension: Peach Varieties
- National Gardening Association: Peach
- University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension: Growing Peaches
- Starkbros.com: Reliance Peach
- Henryfields.com: Reliance Reliance Peach
- Gurneys.com: Reliance Peach Tree