How to Tell If a Peach Is Ripe
There are many reasons folks look forward to summers in the South. Whether you take a family trip to the beach, sweat it out in the stands at a baseball game, or just enjoy the long, sultry evenings sipping a refreshing cocktail while rocking on your porch, summer brings a multitude of pleasures. None of which, however, can compare with biting into a tender, juicy, and oh-so-sweet ripe peach. Like a lot of fresh produce (have you ever waited on an avocado to ripen?) you have to dive into your peach at just the right moment. You bring home a basket of peaches from the farmers' market with big plans of either immediately baking a fresh peach cobbler, preserving them for the winter months, or just keeping the fruit handy for snacking. How disappointed you are when you discover the peaches are either too soft and mealy or still hard as a rock. How do you know when a peach is ripe and ready to eat? Using your senses of sight, touch, and smell, look for these telltale signs and you will never again be disappointed when you bite into a peach.
Look for the Right Color
A ripe peach has a dark yellow color, or ground color, on the part of the fruit that hasn't been exposed to the sun. You want to see a reddish tint on the other side where the fruit did get sun exposure. Avoid peaches that have visible dark spots and bruises, those are likely overripe. If the peach is green or has any hint of green left on it, that means it needed more time on the tree and was picked too early.
There is something else to look for when choosing peaches. Wrinkles are actually a good thing when looking for a ripe peach. You can tell that a peach is ready to eat by looking for signs of shriveled skin around the stem. Once the fruit is picked, water begins to evaporate because the skin is very porous. The evaporation causes slight wrinkles around the stem while concentrating the flavors of the fruit, which means an intensely sweet peach for you.
Feel for Firmness
You can tell if a peach is ripe or not by a gentle, yet firm squeeze with your fingers. You want your peach to have a little bit of give when you gently squeeze it, but not so much that you bruise or poke a hole into the flesh simply by tapping it with your finger. If the peach is rock hard, like a baseball, it was harvested too early. If it is firm with a teeny bit of give, like a tennis ball, it needs a little bit more time to get to that perfectly ripe place. Leave the peach on the kitchen counter for another day or so (check it periodically) until it is soft.
Smell the Sweet Aroma
A sure sign that a peach is ready to be enjoyed is when it gives off a sweet aroma, so go ahead and take a whiff. No smell usually means no taste, and a peach that is not yet ripe will not have a strong smell. As peaches ripen, their aroma becomes stronger and stronger, and a fully ripe peach will have an aroma that will be impossible to resist.
More Peach Picking Pointers
Be gentle. Peaches bruise easily.
Peaches can continue to ripen at home. It's best to leave them on a counter apart from the other peaches and on their shoulder (not on the bottom) away from direct sunlight. Check to see if they have softened by feeling them gently. When they are soft, they are ready to enjoy. To slow the ripening process, put them in the fridge where they should keep for 5 days.