Enjoy juicy, floral sweetness in every bite.

Whether your peaches come from Georgia, Alabama, the Carolinas, Texas, California, New Jersey, or your own backyard, peach season is something to celebrate in the South. It’s tempting to bite right into one as soon as you get home from the supermarket or the farm stand, but this is a time when you might need to show a little restraint. Even if the skin has its trademark orangey-pink blush and appears to be ripe, most peaches need a day or two to ripen fully before they can be eaten out of hand or used in recipes. We’ve all experienced that disappointing feeling when you expect soft, juicy sweetness and instead get something hard and acidic. Fresh peaches are so tender and soft that they must be shipped and sold when they are slightly underripe and a bit hard. This is especially true if they are coming from other countries.

So what’s the best way to ripen them? If the peaches are firm-ripe and just need another day or so to fully ripen, place them on a windowsill in a single layer. When they are fragrant and soft to the touch, they are ready to eat. Ripe peaches also have a warm, creamy yellow or yellow-orange undertone that’s called the “ground color.” Greenish-yellow skin is a sign that the peach is underripe, and was probably picked too early.

If that’s the case, and your peaches are as hard as rocks, place them inside a paper bag in a single layer then fold the top of the bag a few times to close it. Place the bag in a room temperature spot, like your kitchen counter. This method will trap the ethylene gas that peaches naturally emit as they ripen, causing them to ripen faster.

Once ripe, peaches should be kept at room temperature until they start to overripen. In that case, you can place them in the refrigerator to extend their life by a few days.