Mmmm, peaches – the ultimate taste of summer! My favorite way to eat a peach is outside on the porch, leaning over the edge, with peach juice running off my elbows. And after I’ve had my fill of fresh peaches, I might be willing to lend a few to the ice cream machine, the smoothie blender, the pie crust, or perhaps my secret-recipe peach salsa.
As peaches come into season this year, I’ve been thinking about the recent movement toward “organic, local, seasonal” fruits and vegetables. Maybe it’s just been overused, but the phrase sounds so dry to me – it throws me back to childhood “eat your vegetables” lectures and has all the excitement of a symposium on the recreational habits of snails. I think it would be much more effective to stand on the street corner and hand out fresh peaches. All that talk can be reduced to “Here, eat this” – one taste of a peach that’s still warm from the orchard sunshine, and you’ll never buy imported rubber peaches from the supermarket again!
Mid- to late-summer is the best time to find plump, tree-ripened peaches at your local farmer’s market or roadside stand. First come the cling peaches, followed by the semi-freestone, and finally the freestone peaches, giving us a nice long harvest with subtle differences in flavor and texture.
Here’s how to choose the best peaches:
- Look for fruits that give a little when lightly squeezed. If they feel hard like apples, they’re not ripe, and if they feel mushy, they’ve gone too far.
- Ripe peaches smell like peaches! Sniff out the yummiest ones.
- Ripe peaches also have a nice creamy color, with no green on the skin. The red “blush” doesn’t have much to do with ripeness; the background color is more important.
- Peaches are often harvested just before peak ripeness, so they’ll be firm enough to withstand transport. They’ll continue to ripen in a paper bag at room temperature, and they’ll stop ripening if you put them in the fridge.