Fresh peaches are one of the joys of summer, and taste sweetest when allowed to ripen on the tree. Grow your own or buy local peaches for best flavour and quality. Peach season arrives early in the south -- in June or July. In northern regions, peaches don't fully ripen until July or August.
Peaches may soften after picked, but they don't become sweeter or juicier, so it's important to wait until they are ripe before picking them. A peach's red blush is not an accurate indicator of ripeness. Instead, look at the ground colour, or the colour underneath the blush. The ground colour of ripe yellow peaches turns from green to yellow or orange, while the ground colour of white peaches turns from green to white or yellow. If the ground colour is still green, particularly near the stem, it means the peach was picked too early. It may have a soft, mealy texture and lack flavour.
Other indicators of ripeness
Peaches are ripe when they separate easily from the tree. If the peach offers resistance, it isn't ripe. To pick them, grasp them firmly, but gently with your fingers and pull. Place peaches carefully in the box or basket to avoid bruising them. Ripe peaches yield slightly to pressure and have a sweet, peach fragrance.
Store peaches at room temperature to soften them and eat within a few days since peaches are highly perishable. Place them in a brown paper bag if desired, to accelerate the ripening process, but check them frequently to prevent decay. Store peaches for several days in the fridge, but serve them at room temperature for best flavour.
Wash and eat fresh peaches sliced on cereal or in salads, or eat them out of hand. Peel and freeze peaches for longer storage, sprinkling them with lemon juice to prevent browning. Lay the peaches on a baking tray and freeze them for two hours before placing them in plastic containers or plastic freezer bags. Toss frozen peaches in smoothies or use for baking. Make peach ice cream, peach pies or peach cobblers. For a tasty quick breakfast, peel and sauté peaches in a bit of butter until they are just soft. Sprinkle them with a teaspoon of sugar and a sprinkle of lemon juice. Serve the peaches over pancakes, waffles or German pancakes.
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