In my opinion, the peach is one of the best fruits on the entire planet. There isn't much that can beat a great peach. Unfornately most Americans have never had a great peach. Sure peaches are a plenty this time of year at any grocery store. But the American public has agreed to settle for mediocre peaches. When peaches are harvested for the many grocery store chains that dot the map of this country they aren't picked when they are ripe. Now you may have heard people tell you to put a peach in a brown paper bag and it will ripen up, but in reality all you are doing is softening the peach. Ripening means an increase in sugar. Once that peach comes off the tree the amount of sugar is locked in. So when you pick it early you are not getting the max amount of sugar and I also believe you aren't getting the peak of it's flavor.
So what is one to do to enjoy a truly great peach? First, don't expect to find it at a big chain grocery store. They are into making a buck, so they want peaches with a long shelf live, that won't be damaged in shipping. This mean the peach will be picked before it is ripe. Now I have seen peaches sold in chain stores that are advertised as "tree ripen", but as far as I know there is no defined definition of what is tree ripen, it's a matter of opinion. Those peaches may be better, they may not be, but you will have to fork over more dough for them. So now what? Your best source is either a smaller grocery that is into finding the best produce, not the cheapest, like the Produce Station in Ann Arbor, or pick directly from the grower.
The farmer is your best source for peaches. When peach season arrive in your area (and if you live in a place where peaches aren't grown, I feel for you) check out your local farmer's market. An even better option is to pick the peaches yourself, then you know they are tree ripen. When you buy them yourself you are also saving money, since the farmer doesn't have to pay anyone to pick the peaches.
Another advantage to buying directly from the source is that you will get varieties of peaches you will never see on a store shelf. That's right, peaches have varieties. Yeah you may have seen a white peach and a yellow peach next to each other at the mega mart and of course the popular nectarine, but you never see names like Flaming Fury or Sugar May. You wouldn't go to a store and just buy some apples labeled apples would you (I sure hope not!). While peach varieties may not differ as much as apple varieties too, there are still variations to be enjoyed.
Here is a list of peach varieties I have written about on my site.
2. Flaming Fury
3. Sugar May
4. Saturn Donut
5. Harvest Moon Donut
6. Red Haven
8. Canadian Harmony
9. Galaxy Donut
10. White Lady
11. Coral Star
13. Blushing Star
14. Glo Haven
15. Glowing Star
Now for those who live where peaches aren't grown, here are some tips to try and get the best peach possible at the super market.
1. Red doesn't mean ripe. People seem to believe this, so peaches have been created with red color skins. You actually want to see an orange background to the color of most peaches. That would indicate a ripe peach more than a red color.
2. Use the brown bag paper method to soften the peach. The last thing I want with a peach is to bite into it and have it sound like an apple.
3. Try to buy instead from a grocery store more interested in quality than they are in making a dollar (don't buy peaches at Walmart!).
4. Stock up on them for the winter. Peaches that you find in the winter are shipped in from far off lands, so the taste will be far off as well. Freeze or can some during the summer for winter enjoyment. I almost think you are better off buying canned or frozen peaches then fresh when not in season.
If you live in a peach growing state and it's peach season, do yourself a favor and skip the grocery stores and head to the farm. It's better for your taste buds and it's a way to support your local economy. Walmart doesn't need your money like those farmers do.