Is there anything that can beat a high quality, sweet, juicy, flavorful, ripe peach? I think not. However how many of you struggle to find that perfect peach? Have you had that experience where the peach looks great but when you brought it home you were disappointed? I have six tips for you that should help you avoid peach disappointment.
1. Know the season
It all starts with understanding how peach season works. I have written about peach season before, so make sure to check that post out. To summarize it – domestic peach season begins here in the U.S. in early to mid May. It is starting to become earlier with Florida peaches now hitting the market place earlier than the California and Georgia crop. Typically peaches then remain in the stores until September or at the most early October. Keep this in mind, the very earliest peaches typically aren’t the most flavorful just the earliest available. End of season peaches can be left in cold storage too long and be rubbery and off tasting. If it’s the beginning or end the season don’t make a big financial commitment if you want peaches, buy a couple to prevent mass disappointment or if you can get a sample before you buy.
2. Buy Local
If you can buy local by all means do it. Your farmer’s market is your best source. Those peaches are not grown to be shipped across the country, so they may remain on the tree longer before picked. Establish a relationship with your local farmers, so you know when their best tasting peaches are available. Make sure to ask exactly what variety they are growing so if you like it, you can ask for it again.
3. Find Varieties If You Can
Lots of people don’t release their are hundreds of varieties of peaches. It’s not just one type of yellow peach or one type of white peach. Orchards tend to grow many different varieties that ripe at different points. Peach trees are harvested in a 7-10 day window. If you only plant one variety then they will all have to be picked at once. Instead you plant varieties that will ripen over a couple months, so there is a continual supply. This is also why you can go to the store and buy some amazing peaches and go back a week later and buy more, only to find that you don’t like them as well. They were probably a different variety.
What is the Difference Between Peach Varieties
Peach varieties do not differ as much as apple varieties do, but there are differences you can tell if you become a peach connoisseur like me. The biggest difference is in the sweet/tart ratio. Flavor also differs. Some have that old fashion peach flavor, I have some that taste just like peach pie (see the Peach Pie donut peach from Family Tree Farms) or that they have been drizzled with maple syrup. I have had white peaches taste so sweet you think you are eating candy. If you taste several varieties of peaches side by side I am confident you will be able to taste the difference. My wife and I love getting a couple different varieties at once and doing a little taste testing as an after dinner snack.
Finding the Variety
Finding out what variety of peach you are eating can be difficult. Generally grocery store only market a peach as being white or yellow flesh. I wish stores shared took the time to share that information as I think when people find a great variety and see that name again they would buy a ton, and I don’t think it will hinder sales to people who don’t care what they are getting just because the sign says “Spring Flame peaches”. Almost all peaches arrive to the store with the information on the side of the box telling you what variety it is. If you store displays peaches in the box they come in, then you can read the side of the box. You can also try asking one of the employees, although most probably don’t even bothering looking at that information. If you are buying from a farmer’s market then should by all means know exactly what variety they are selling you even if they don’t put out a sign saying what it is.
4. Check stickers
If you can’t find out varieties at your store there is an another thing you can do to find great peaches – find great growers. Learn to be a sticker reader. The sticker tells you who grew that peach. What I would do is get a piece of paper, place it on the fridge. Make two headings – like and didn’t like. Whenever you buy a peach, take the sticker off and place it on the paper under whatever heading is appropriate. That way you can learn to spot them in the store in the future. A few growers that I do recommend are :
Kingsburg Orchards | Check out their website
They harvest over 200 varieties of fruit in Kingsburg, California (which is in central California, south of Fresno). They are known for their development of many different kinds of pluots and apriums, including their dinosaur brand and velvet apricot series. You can find their peaches under their Flavor Farmer brand and their Flying Saucer brand of donut peaches. You can find a calendar of where their various peaches ripen on their website. One of their special varieties of peach is their Strawberry Heirloom peach. Here in Michigan, I have found their fruit at Meijer, Whole Foods Market, and Randazzo stores.
Family Tree Farms | Check out their website
Family Tree Farms really is a family affair. Seven generations and counting of farmers. It shows in the consistent quality of their fruit. I am particularly a fan of their Peach Pie Donut Peaches, which really do remind me of a fresh peach pie. Check out their availability chart.
Pearson Farm | Check out their website
Straight out of Fort Valley, Georgia, Pearson Farm offers amazing peaches. Look for their logo on peaches labeled as southern peaches at your grocery store. A couple years ago I received a box of their GaLa peaches right to my doorstep.
5. Avoiding green
Color is only important in one regard to peaches and it’s not the color, red. Red means nothing but how much sunlight a peach got. People seem to believe this which is why a lot of peaches today are almost all red, particularly the varieties from California. What I really care about when looking at the color of a peach is do I see any green. I want the peach to picked after the green has turned to yellow, even if still hard. Peaches are going to be picked hard, otherwise they could never be shipped anywhere. The key is to buy them from sources that allow them to mature enough on the tree for all the green to be gone. That way the peach has had enough time to develop full flavor.
6. Invest in paper bags
The final step to the perfect peach is how you store it when you get home. First if it came home in a plastic bag, remove it immediately. Plastic bags will draw moisture right to the skin of the peach and this could cause it to mold or rot. What you need to do is put the peaches until a paper bag until they are soft enough to eat. They should give to very gentle pressure. Never put the peaches into the fridge before they are soft enough. Once in the fridge I would say enjoy them within 3 days, 5 days tops. They will eventually start to shrivel up and the taste will be off.
If you follow these steps, your success of having a perfect peach will dramatically increase!