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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How to Pick a Peach

The California tree fruit (aka stone fruit) season has started, but in my humble opinion, it’s too early to find flavorful fruit in my local supermarket. (As a produce distributor, you might assume I get my fruit from our giant warehouse, but my mom always taught me that it’s better to go spend money in our retail customers’ stores.)

So, back to picking a good-tasting peach, nectarine, plum or pluot. I like to wait until late May or early June before I buy stone fruit at the market. The flavor and sweetness seems to be superior.

Here are some tips:
1. Buy stone fruit at room temperature. That way you can smell the aroma of the fruit. I have always found that if the fruit smells like I want it to taste, I usually have a good experience.

2. Make sure the fruit has good, well-rounded shoulders. The “shoulders” are the top of the fruit that surround the stem end. If they are NOT well rounded (not plump looking), then the fruit was probably picked prematurely and it will never ripen properly.

3. It’s OK if the fruit is hard. It will ripen at room temperature. When I bring fruit home from the store, I leave it out on the counter in a closed brown paper bag. The brown paper bag provides the perfect self-ripening conditions. Years ago, the California Tree Fruit Agreement (the marketing order that represents our state’s fruit growers) encouraged retailers to give away fruit ripening bags. These bags were just regular brown bags, with printed instructions on them. Don’t let your fruit get too soft when it ripens – then it will be mushy. It should give to gentle pressure.

4. Only buy enough fruit that you can eat in two to three days. On my counter, I find that the fruit ripens rather quickly, so I am better off going to the store more frequently, and ripening it at home in the brown paper bag.

5. If it’s convenient for you, buy fresh peaches, nectarines and plums and pluots (cross between a plum and an apricot) at your local farmer’s market. Most farmers will give out free samples, so you can taste before you buy. The only downside of buying fruit at the farmer’s market is that you have to use it within a day or two. I find that it does not last much longer.

Do you have any fruit-picking secrets? Please share them by posting your comments directly on the blog.

Tree fruit season starts now and there will be plentiful supplies of fresh-picked, domestically-grown fruit all the way into September and even October. Thanks to breeding programs and the seasonality of the fruit, there will be dozens -- maybe hundreds -- of varieties during these next five months, each variety lasting for a week or more.

The most important thing, though, is for you to eat lots of fresh fruits (and vegetables) while they are in season. Not only do they taste good, they are good for your health!


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  1. Great advice. Thanks Karen. Also, when selecting red peaches, do not pick the reddest ones. The color is a function of the variety and where it was on the tree. If it got more sun it has more red color. Look at the "Ground Color". That is the color of the non-red skin. It should be a warm yellow. That means it is mature. If the ground color is greenish, it was picked immature and will never be sweet.


  2. Karen, Thank you for the tree fruit information, as well as all you previous posts. I always look forward to your emails!

  3. Great post, Karen! One thing I've done (when I don't want to wait for my not-entirely-ripe peaches or apricots is to use them in savory cooked dishes. Peaches & apricots are great in a spicy pasta or in a salsa - either a tomatillo salsa or a tomato based salsa. On the other hand, if I've let either go too long (and I've used plums & pluots for this too), I make a BBQ sauce or savory glaze with them. Smokey ones pair well with the peaches/apricots, and more acidic ones go well with plums. Cheers!

  4. Great ideas, Trisha! Thank you. And, Devon, thanks for your tips about the "ground color."

  5. Your blog is great! Would you talk about blood oranges next?

  6. Great blog post!

    The best way to enjoy a peach is eating one which has been tree-ripened. At Frog Hollow Farm, we let them ripen to their ultimate flavor and and hand-pick to ship throughout the country when they are their juiciest. Peach season is almost here at Frog Hollow Farm - we are so excited for another year of great stone fruit!

  7. Thanks, Jeff. Looking forward to more of your amazing peaches this season!

  8. Sky Meadow Farms has tree ripened Peaches last chance is what they call them we went and picked them in Leona Valley... and oh my!!! were they sweet and juicy.



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