The king of summer fruit, a good peach is one of the delights of the season. As we round the corner from mid- to late-summer, these fuzzy fruits are at their peak. It can be tough to know which peach to choose and exactly how to select and care for these delicate fruits; so here’s a quick guide to help you sort it out.
Local Door County Peaches
For those who want local fruit above all else, we carry conventional peaches from Healthy Ridge Farm in Door County. These peaches are grown using organic methods but they’re not USDA Certified Organic. For easier transport, the farmers at Healthy Ridge pick their peaches when they’re just starting to ripen, but still a bit hard. We’ve found that they generally ripen quite well once they arrive at our stores. Look for Door County peaches on our shelves in late August, and into early September. These are a great choice for those who want to can peaches for use in the winter months. Remember, as a Co-op Owner, you get a 10% discount on a case pre-order!
Organic California Peaches
For those who prefer certified organic fruit, peaches from California are what you’re most likely to find on our shelves this month. Since these fruits have to travel such a long distance, they are picked quite green. With the right care, California peaches usually ripen beautifully, but if they are handled incorrectly anywhere along they way, they can turn mealy or not ripen correctly.
Organic Colorado Peaches
These are the organic peaches that we look forward to all year! Colorado peaches are picked ripe, which results in an extremely delicious (and extremely delicate) fruit. A ripe peach is an incredibly hard thing to pick and transport without bruising, and the price is higher to reflect the extra care they require. As a seasonal treat, Colorado peaches are totally worth the extra cost and care. Tree-ripened peaches are almost always perfectly juicy and sweet, just as a peach should be. Their season usually runs from mid- to late-August through mid-September.
Picking out a good peach can be tricky, even for a seasoned produce worker.
Generally, it’s best to purchase peaches when not quite ripe and finish the ripening process at home. When they’re perfectly drip-down-your-chin-ripe it can be almost impossible to get them home without damaging them. If you purchase ripe fruit (like the Colorado peaches usually are), be very careful, as even the gentlest pressure can bruise them.
The best way to ensure that you’re getting good fruit is to ask for a sample and recommendation from a produce staff member. A peach will soften as it ripens, but the sugar content stays consistent, so even if the peach you try is still crisp, it should still taste sweet. Avoid peaches with a greenish hue, as they were probably picked too unripe and most likely will not ripen correctly.
Many people use their nose when selecting peaches. While aroma can be a good indicator of ripeness, fruit that is refrigerated does not have a strong aroma even when ripe, so only use this technique for room-temperature fruit.
Many people will squeeze a peach to determine ripeness. While the squeeze test generally works, it can very easily result in bruising, which ruins the fruit entirely. This is especially true for Colorado peaches. While most California or Door County peaches can hold up to a gentle squeeze, even the slightest amount of pressure will bruise a tree-ripened Colorado peaches. Remember, if in doubt, you can always ask for a sample!
Peaches will continue to ripen as long as they are at room temperature. Many different factors determine how quickly this happens: ambient room temperature, how ripe they were when picked, and their proximity to other ripening fruit are all contributing factors. If you want to hasten ripening, place your peaches in a paper bag with a ripening banana or other fruit in a warm-ish place. The bag traps ethelyne gas, which is a natural ripening agent given off by all ripening fruits. Peaches can ripen surprisingly quickly this way so to avoid over-ripeness be sure to check on them at least once a day!
Chilling slows down the ripening process, so once your peaches are perfectly ripe, it’s best to either eat them or refrigerate them right away. Chilled fruit tends to lose some of its flavor (much like aroma, flavor is diminished under cooler temperatures), so I always try to warm my fruit back up to room temperature before eating it.
Enjoy your summer peaches now! All too soon the weather will cool and the seasons will shift; and we’ll have to wait a whole year to savor the peachy delights of summer again. Happy eating!