Scorching temperatures and too few rain showers are baking America's heartland. And while no farmer would ever wish for those conditions, this year's drought has at least one perk: growers of everything from beets to watermelon are reporting that flavors have intensified, since hot weather hastens maturity and builds higher levels of sugars and other key compounds. "Everyone is after the perfect peach," says Theresa High, owner and manager of High Country Orchards in Palisade, Colo. "And I think they found it this year."
On a local level, farmers can tout their flavorful produce to increase consumer demand. "It can be a good surprise," says Irwin Goldman, horticulture professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. At a farm in Colorado, for example, Michael Bartolo is growing some of his sweetest cantaloupes ever. "A lot of people at the markets have liked them," says the crop specialist at Colorado State University.
Of course, better flavors alone won't recoup losses from the drought, which could cost taxpayers $10.7 billion in bailouts. But they're certainly sparking foodie enthusiasm. "If there's a bright side to the world's weather conditions," says High, "this is it."