A ripe peach is one of the most delicious summertime fruits. However, finding a truly ripe peach can be
quite challenging. In the past, growers picked peaches before they were fully mature, meaning the
background color was greenish yellow instead of a deep yellow. Immature peaches look fine and will
ripen; however they will not taste as sweet or flavorful. In addition, grocers used to store peaches in
the cold section of the produce department, which causes the peaches to deteriorate and lose their
flavor. Peaches stored in cold temperatures are unable to ripen and develop a meaty texture.
Peach varieties, like other pitted fruit, are classified in two different categories: freestone and
clingstone. The freestone is easily separated from the center stone or pit of the fruit, while the
clingstone varieties usually leave flesh attached to the pit. The popularity of the clingstone varieties
has diminished over the recent years. The freestone and a new category of peaches called semi-freestone,
have become the peaches of choice for most consumers. The semi-freestone, as its name suggests, is a
combination of the freestone and clingstone varieties. The semi-freestone is smaller in size than the
Collectively, domestically grown peaches are available from May to mid-October. Peaches found in the
supermarkets outside of this season are shipped in from Chile. Chile primarily ships the Springcrest,
Merrill, Gemfree, Flavorcrest, Elegant Land and the O'Henry varieties.
Selection and Storage
The challenging nature of finding a truly delicious peach makes their selection and storage very important. The reward of biting into a juicy, sweet peach makes the extra detail in selecting and storing worth it.
For better quality and taste, look for peaches that are "tree ripened" or "California Well Mature." This will mean that the peaches reached their maturity before being picked. Also, pay attention to how your supermarket stores peaches. Supermarkets should store peaches in open bins, not in the cold section.
When selecting peaches, look for those that are well-rounded, with shades of deep yellow skin coloring under a red blush. Ripe peaches will yield to gentle pressure, particularly along the seam, and give off a sweet fragrance. Peaches selected when they are brightly colored but firm to moderately hard will ripen in two to three days at room temperature. Avoid peaches that are stored cold, are rock hard, green, or mushy, or have shriveled skins, because they will never ripen properly or taste good.
At home, store peaches on the counter at room temperature until ripe. To quicken the ripening process, place peaches in a paper bag until fully ripe. Adding ethylene-producing fruit like bananas and apples to the paper bag will further accelerate the ripening process. When ripe, peaches should be stored in the refrigerator until eaten, but only for a couple of days because the cold storage will reduce their juice and flavor.
Before eating or cooking peaches, wash them in cool water and dry with a paper towel or soft cloth to remove the remaining fuzz. Most of the fuzz should be already removed by the commercial washing process.
The easiest way to pit freestone peaches is to make a cut along the seam all the way around and through the fruit down to the pit. Then twist each half in opposite directions. Cutting sections (slices, quarters, etc.) right from the whole fruit by slicing down to the pit and removing the desired amount is the best way to pit clingstone peaches. As with apples, pears, and peaches, lemon or other citrus juice retards browning of cut peaches.
To peel peaches easily, place fruit in a strainer and dip them into boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds. Remove the peaches promptly, and put them into cold water to cool. This process will make the skin easy to peel with a sharp paring knife.
Spices and seasonings that go well with peaches are almonds, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, coriander maze, sherry, Marsala, rum, and amaretto. The versatility of peaches has grown beyond just a fresh fruit or dessert. They are now used as a good match with poultry, including quail, Cornish hen, squab, or just plain chicken. Peaches are also a great addition to pork and veal dishes.
The white Babcock peach is my favorite. I like to slice one and put the slices in a glass of red wine before dinner. Then after dinner both the red wine and the peach taste even better. This is one classic Sicilian dessert.
Tony's Favorite Recipe
Redtop peaches are the first freestone variety
to reach the market. They are known for their consistently good flavor.
Elegant Lady is the number one freestone
variety due to its good eye appeal, delicious flavor and long shelf live.
O'Henry is the second most popular freestone
peach. The O'Henry is a large peach that has a yellow flesh with a red color streak near the pit.
Summer Lady is a new variety developed
recently that is a cross between the Elegant Lady and the O'Henry peaches.
Fairtime is a later arriving variety usually
harvested in August. This peach has good flavor but is primarily processed as frozen peaches instead of
Carnival is one of the latest arriving peaches
as in hits the market in late September and early October. This variety is also processed as frozen
Crest family peaches are the first variety of
peaches to reach the supermarkets. The Crest family of peach falls into the semi-freestone category.
Queen Crest, May Crest and the Ray Crest all
arrive in the first week of May. The May Crest, in particular, has exceptional flavor and color.
Spring Lady, the first variety of the Lady
family of peaches, arrives in mid May. The Rich Lady and June Lady follow close behind. The Lady
varieties are noted for their beautiful red color and delicious taste.
White peach varieties are fast becoming very
popular, and their consumer acceptance is fast outpacing other peach varieties and even white
Babcock, which has ten or twelve
sub-varieties, is the most popular white peach variety.
White Lady and Sugar Giant are two newer peach
varieties that are expected to become very popular.